Joe Mazzulla Is the Youngest Coach Since 1970 to Win an NBA Title

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Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

Joe Mazzulla has often been described as quirky, intense, and even a bit unorthodox. Surprisingly, these labels aren't from detractors but from his own Boston Celtics players, who deeply admire him. Now, they and everyone else must add another title to his name: Champion.

At just 35 years old, Mazzulla, whose prior head coaching experience was limited to NCAA Division II, has led the Celtics to the pinnacle of the NBA. On Monday night, Boston clinched their record 18th championship with a decisive 106-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, wrapping up the finals in five games. Fans can celebrate this historic win and explore the excitement of sports betting by wagering on thrilling NBA moments like this one. You can check it out here.

This triumph makes Mazzulla, at 35 years and 353 days old, the ninth-youngest coach to win an NBA title and the youngest since Bill Russell did it as a player/coach in 1969. Since 1970, he has surpassed Pat Riley, who won with the Lakers in 1982 at 37 years and 80 days old.

With an impressive 148-54 record, giving him a. 729 winning percentage, Mazzulla stands out among coaches with at least 200 NBA games. No one has a better record. "There’s nothing better than representing the Celtics and being part of history," Mazzulla remarked.

The usually stoic coach allowed himself a rare smile when the 2024 NBA Finals, presented by YouTube TV, concluded. "A coach’s greatest gift is a group of players that want to be coached and led and who empower themselves," Mazzulla said during the series. He added that you can’t be a good coach if your players don’t let you be.

Mazzulla is now the 37th coach to win an NBA title and the seventh from the Celtics' bench, joining the ranks of legends like Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, and Doc Rivers.

Despite his unconventional approach, Mazzulla's authenticity and unique style have earned him immense respect. Celtics guard Payton Pritchard praised him, saying, "He’s really himself. He’s authentic. He’s different, but we respect that. He’s a basketball genius."

Alex Cora, manager of the Boston Red Sox, has high hopes for Mazzulla and the Celtics. After a tumultuous start following Ime Udoka's departure, Mazzulla's leadership in his second year, aided by assistants like Charles Lee and Sam Cassell, has been instrumental.

Mazzulla's journey to NBA success is far from traditional. Before the Celtics, he coached at Fairmont State in West Virginia, leading them to a 43-17 record. A New England native, Mazzulla's connection to the Celtics began as an assistant for their G League team before rejoining the Celtics in 2019.

Both Mazzulla and Celtics president Brad Stevens share a no-nonsense approach, focusing solely on wins rather than personal accolades. Celtics guard Derrick White recalled Mazzulla's reaction to winning coach of the month: "Nobody cares."

Before his promotion, Mazzulla's closest brush with an NBA head-coaching role came in 2022 with the Utah Jazz. Although he didn't land the job, he reflected on the process with humility, even joking about the discomfort of wearing a suit for the interview.

Mazzulla's definitive answer to leading an NBA team came with Monday night's victory. The Celtics' 18th banner will be raised this fall, cementing his place in NBA history. As Mazzulla said, you get very few chances in life to be great. "When you have those chances, you have to take the bull by the horns and own it. And our guys owned it."