Skip to main content

The Boston Celtics entered the All-Star break with the best record in the NBA and have started the second half on the right foot. As the first part of the season came to a close, so did the “interim” label in front of head coach Joe Mazzulla’s name.

The Celtics officially made Mazzulla the team’s head coach after going 42-17 before the break. ESPN’s Stephen .A Smith offered an odd take on the timing of Mazzulla’s promotion.

Stephen A. Smith labeled the Boston Celtics move ‘premature’

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla looks on during the first half of the game against the New York Knicks at TD Garden on January 26, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.

Joe Mazzulla took over for Ime Udoka after serving as his assistant last season. The Celtics suspended Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violating team policy. They replaced Udoka with Mazzulla, slapping the interim tag on him. Now, that label is gone, and he’s the official head coach.

Smith called the move “premature” during a recent episode of First Take.

“On one hand, I’m incredibly happy that Joe Mazzulla got the interim tag taken away and is the head coach of the Boston Celtics,” Smith said., per NESN. “On the other hand, I make no apologies for the fact that it was premature.”

Smith’s take got worse when he explained.

“Coaching is important come postseason time,” Smith continued. “Those best-of-seven game series and the adjustments that need to be made, not just on the fly but preparing from game to game. That is a question mark that the Boston Celtics have yet to answer because obviously, the postseason has not begun.

“Let’s not summarily dismiss that, particularly when you talk about going up against the likes of (Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike) Budenholzer or (Philadelphia 76ers head coach) Doc Rivers.”

Regardless of what Smith says, no team is worried about facing Doc Rivers in the playoffs

Removing the interim label is a good move for the Celtics. They can enter the second half of the season and the postseason with no doubts. They’ve eliminated a distraction by making this move.

Mazzulla is well ahead of where Udoka was at this point last year. Through 50 games a year ago, the Celtics were 25-25 and were an underachieving team. They finished the season 26-6 and made their way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. While the Celtics might not collect 26 wins in their final 32 games this year, they are already eight wins away from last year’s total with 23 games left.

Whether it’s Udoka or Mazzulla running the show, Boston’s success will be determined by talent, not coaching. Through 59 games, Mazzulla has shown he is a fit in Boston and can manage his players.

Smith is right that coaches make their money during the postseason, but he kills his own argument by bringing up Doc Rivers. In his last six years in the playoffs, Rivers is 27-29. Overall, he’s 104-100. It’s one thing to say the Celtics might have to worry about the Philadelphia 76ers when the playoffs arrive, but there is no team that’s concerned about Rivers being the difference-maker.


Why Is Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla No Longer Frantically Chewing Gum on the Sideline?