Celtics

Wyc Grousbeck says he stopped Danny Ainge from hiring Joe Mazzulla in the offseason

Wyc Grousbeck revealed Tuesday that Ainge wanted Mazzulla to join former Celtics assistant Will Hardy's staff in Utah.

Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla looks on before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden on October 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Danny Ainge hired then-Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy to be the Utah Jazz’s head coach in June as part of the team’s rebuild.

According to Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, Hardy was not the only Celtics assistant that Ainge, the former longtime Celtics president of basketball operations and current Jazz executive, wanted in Utah.

Grousbeck told WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on Tuesday that he stopped Ainge from bringing Joe Mazzulla, an assistant with Boston at the time, to join Hardy’s staff.

“I prevented Danny from stealing [Mazzulla] this summer, because I told Danny I’d fly to Utah and personally strangle him if he did. You can quote that,” Grousbeck said.

Advertisement:

“You can take one person, an assistant, and make them a head coach, which they did with Will Hardy. Then they also wanted Mazzulla, and I was like, ‘That’s it, you’re crossing the line, and we’re not having it.’ And that was just when Joe was senior assistant with us, and now all of a sudden he’s interim head coach.”

Grousbeck’s insistence on keeping Mazzulla seems to have paid off considering that, as he pointed out, Mazzulla is now the Celtics’ interim head coach.

Named to the position in the wake of Ime Udoka’s yearlong suspension, the 34-year old Mazzulla’s previous highest-level head-coaching experience was at NCAA Division II Fairmont State, where he was the head coach for two seasons between 2017 and 2019.

Grousbeck acknowledged that such a drastic leap would be difficult for anyone, but expressed his confidence in Mazzulla.

“For being a small-sized guy, point guard, assistant but never a head coach in the NBA – now he’s interim head coach of the Celtics – it’s a big ask for a 34-year-old,” Grousbeck said. “Except then you meet Joe Mazzulla and you’re like, ‘All right, this could really work.’ … We believe in him, and I think the players believe in him for sure.”

Advertisement:

Mazzulla began his NBA head-coaching career with a victory, as his Celtics took down the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 126-117 on Tuesday night. Boston’s young stars played extremely well together, as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 35 points on the night.

Mazzulla and the Celtics will look to make it two straight wins to begin the season when they match-up against the Miami Heat on the road on Friday night.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com