Celtics staffer Joe Mazzulla to coach NBA All-Star Game

Joe Mazzulla started the season as an assistant coach. He then became interim head coach of the Boston Celtics, in a most unexpected way.

And now the NBA’s youngest head coach is heading to the All-Star Game.

Mazzulla, 34, and his team of Celtics assistants will coach Team Giannis — the team that will be coached by Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo — in the Feb. 19 game in Salt Lake City. They took that chance on Monday night when Philadelphia lost to Orlando, a result that secured Boston the Eastern Conference’s best record at the end of games on Sunday.

Sunday is the deadline for the league to determine All-Star coaches; teams with the best records at that time are entitled to send their coaching staff to the game, provided they did not get the job the previous year. Denver’s Michael Malone is currently the favorite to coach Team LeBron, the team that will be coached by LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy all the time,” Mazzulla said last week when asked about the challenges of the season so far. “But it was fun. It has been gratifying.

Mazzulla has the Celtics, the defending Eastern Conference champions, with an NBA record of 36-15 so far this season.

They haven’t missed a beat despite a rocky start to the year once Boston suspended coach Ime Udoka for the season; an investigation by an outside law firm found Udoka committed multiple violations of team policies for what sources told The Associated Press involved an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the organization.

“You just have to move on,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us. We have games to play, we have work to do. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult at the start with the injuries and obviously having a new coach two days before the start of the season. But I think we’ve done a great job of managing that and it shows.

Mazzulla is believed to be the first interim coach in NBA history to have the opportunity to be an All-Star coach. He will train the team that Antetokounmpo drafts shortly before the match; the captains, in a change this season, won’t choose their teams until game night in Salt Lake City.

Mazzulla is the first Celtics coach to be given the all-star all-star since Brad Stevens — now president of Celtics basketball operations — in 2017. He becomes the eighth Celtics coach to be an All-Star coach. Red Auerbach, Tom Heinsohn, KC Jones, Doc Rivers, Chris Ford, Bill Fitch and Stevens are the others.

Mazzulla had been an assistant at Boston for three years, and until this season his only head coaching experience was a two-year stint from 2017 to 2019 at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia.

But he made coaching for the Celtics easy.

“Overwhelming? No. Was it difficult? Yeah,” Mazzulla said. “Were there times when you had to trust, were there times when you were Uncomfortable? Absolutely. But it wasn’t overwhelming, just because of the guys, the organization, the people who were here to get through it together.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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