Boston Celtics

May 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla in the first half during game five of the 2023 NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

During his end-of-year press conference on Thursday afternoon, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens more or less confirmed head coach Joe Mazzulla will be back with the team next season after a disappointing playoff exit.

“When you consider the position he was thrust into and the overall accomplishments of the group, I thought he did a really good job,” Stevens said to reporters. “He’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year, because he’s constantly trying to learn…Our players, our staff, everybody around him believe(s) in him, and we’ve got to do our best to support him going forward.”

  • At the same time, Stevens did note that there are changes that need to be made to the staff. He cited the drain at the assistant coaching level as a factor, noting “we did have a lot of people that that we lost” going back to lead assistant Will Hardy taking over the Utah Jazz head coaching job last summer.

    One assistant coaching loss Stevens singled out was the departure of Damon Stoudamire, who left to take the head coaching job at Georgia Tech in mid-March. Stoudamire’s absence was also highlighted in a behind-the-scenes piece on the team published by The Athletic on Thursday morning.

    According to The Athletic, the loss of Stoudamire “left a significant void in the team’s leadership structure.” They cite a main reason for that being Stoudamire’s personal experience as an NBA player – he appeared in 878 games over 13 NBA seasons with four different franchises – and how that helped him relate to players.

    “It’s not like Damon had a certain power, but players really respected him,” a source told The Athletic. “Joe used Damon to have a guy that’s been here that’s played that can speak to them. Damon could speak their language and no one else on the staff can do (it).”

    With Stoudamire gone, the Celtics have just one assistant on their staff who played in the NBA, albeit with significantly less experience. Aaron Miles who was hired by the team prior to the 2021-2022, appeared in 19 games for the Golden State Warriors in the fall of 2005.

  • During his press conference on Thursday, Stevens acknowledged that “we’ll at least have one addition that we’ll make now that we have a summer to to make it. And we’ll go from there.”

    Many have pointed to the need to add a veteran coach to Mazzulla’s staff, to guide him as he himself gains experience as an NBA head coach. But based on what The Athletic, it may be just as if not more important to add somebody not just with NBA coaching experience, but NBA playing experience as well.

    This conundrum shouldn’t be new territory for Stevens to navigate. When Stevens was still the head coach of the Celtics, the team faced a similar problem.

  • When Walter McCarty left the Celtics to take a head coaching job at the college level in the March of 2018, the Celtics were left without any NBA playing experience on their coaching staff. At the time, there were similar reported rifts between the coaches and players.

    That changed when the team hired 10-year NBA veteran Evan Turner as an assistant coach in November 2020. Players spoke highly of Turner as a coach during his tenure with the Celtics.

    This isn’t to go as far as to say that everybody coaching in the NBA needs experience playing in the league. Far from it. But having a staff that is fully without former NBA players excludes the unique perspective those individuals can bring. Right now, adding not just experience but a range of different experiences might be the best thing the Celtics can do as they enter the first full offseason of the Joe Mazzulla era.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.