Joe Mazzulla will return as Celtics coach. Brad Stevens explains why.

"I thought he did a really good job with this group."

Brad Stevens addressed the media at an end of the year press conference. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Joe Mazzulla will return as head coach of the Boston Celtics next season, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said Thursday.

The Celtics finished one win short of making the NBA Finals in Mazzulla’s first season as coach. Stevens admitted that Mazzulla was learning on the fly throughout the year, echoing a sentiment that various players had shared earlier.

Despite that, Stevens said that he believes Mazzulla is the best option for the team going forward.

“I thought he did a really good job with this group,” Stevens said. “Everybody is going to overreact to the best players and coaches after every game. That’s always the way it is. We know that going in. So, we have to be able to judge things on the whole.”


“He’s a terrific leader,” Stevens continued. “He’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year because he’s constantly trying to learn. And he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find. I know they’re easy to talk about, but when you can show all those through the expectations and the microscope that he was under, that’s hard to do.”

Mazzulla shouldered the blame after Game 3, when Miami blew out the Celtics and claimed a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics fought hard to erase the deficit, but ultimately came up short in Game 7 at TD Garden.

“Was he perfect? Would he like to have some moments back? Every coach would,” Stevens said. “Even the coaches nobody talks about would. We all that have coached know how hard that is. At the same time, our players, our staff, everybody around him believes in him and we’ve got to do our best to support him going forward.”

Stevens pointed to the fact that Mazzulla was named interim coach about a week before the season started. He said that he wants to add a highly experienced veteran assistant coach to support Mazzulla. Former Celtics coach Ime Udoka is expected to hire three of Mazzulla’s assistants away to join his staff with the Houston Rockets, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.


“We’re going to look for at least one addition to the bench,” Stevens said.
“[Mazzulla] is going to lead the charge, but we’re going to look for somebody that’s got a lot of NBA experience for sure.”

Stevens said he was impressed with how Mazzulla handled being named interim coach the week before the season started. He called the Celtics’ start to the season “remarkable.”

“I might have said this in September: I couldn’t have done that. I always needed a whole summer of planning, a whole summer of thinking and organizing thoughts and being able to get yourself to emphasize what you want to emphasize on a daily basis. There’s no question [more time] will be a huge benefit.”


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