Boston Celtics

‘Mazzulla' docuseries: C's coach can relate to ‘misunderstood' dog breed

"That's one of the reasons I fell in love with the Rottweiler."

NBC Universal, Inc.

We've learned more about Joe Mazzulla the Boston Celtics head coach over the last year, but what about Joe Mazzulla the person?

Since the start of the 2023-24 NBA season, NBC Sports Boston's video crew spent time with Mazzulla to learn what makes him tick. In Part 1 of our "Mazzulla" docuseries, the second-year coach showed how he developed his competitive spirit. In Part 2, he offered a fascinating insight into his unique daily mindset.

Part 3 of the series showed a side of Mazzulla that Celtics fans haven't seen. The 35-year-old opened up about his faith, rediscovering his identity, and feeling misunderstood. Later, he took our crew to a couple of his favorite hot spots for Italian food in Rhode Island.

The latest episode begins with a flashback to Nov. 28, 2023. The Celtics had to defeat the Chicago Bulls by at least 23 points to advance in the NBA In-Season Tournament. They repeatedly sent Bulls big man Andre Drummond -- a poor free throw shooter -- to the line while up more than 30 points in the fourth quarter. There was debate over whether the "Hack-A-Drummond" strategy was unsportsmanlike, but it made sense given the circumstances.

Still, Mazzulla admits it didn't sit well with him.

"After the game, I wasn't happy. I felt a certain type of way about that. Because at the end of the day, you're affecting another human," he said.

"One of my fears as a person who is outspoken about their faith is you're not always reflecting what people think you should be reflecting as a Christian. I was talking to Father T about it, and he was like, 'The fact that you feel that way is a good thing.' He's like, 'You should be worried when you make decisions like that and you feel nothing at all."

Mazzulla played college basketball at West Virginia. When his playing career concluded, he was forced to reevaluate his identity.

"All my affirmation and everything was seeking, I put into basketball. I put into being a basketball player," he said. "And I lost that identity when I got hurt and missed a season, and I lost it again when I thought I was gonna play overseas and I lost the game of basketball.

"It made me ask myself, like, who am I? Who is Joe Mazzulla the basketball player versus Joe Mazzulla the person? As I got into coaching, I had to reinvent myself because my identity had been in something that's fleeting."

Mazzulla introduced our video crew to the family dog, a Rottweiler named Nike. He believes Rottweilers are a misunderstood dog breed, and he can relate.

"I would say last year during my first season I felt (misunderstood)" he said. "Kind of in this box of like, who am I? Who is the head coach of the Boston Celtics supposed to be like? I think any time you become a head coach and a leader, you have to find a space to where, how can you make it yours? I didn't really have the time to do that and I didn't think it was the time or the place in Year 1, the expectations that we had, the way we went about it, it wasn't really about me trying to be myself. It was more about what I thought the players and the organization needed.

"That's one of the reasons I fell in love with the Rottweiler, was because I think they're so misunderstood from the standpoint of how they're viewed by people but how they really are, especially toward the people that they love."

Also in the episode, Mazzulla shows off a rosary made of the original Boston Garden parquet and welcomes our video crew into the chapel in his home.

Check out the video player above to watch "Mazzulla: Part 3" in its entirety, and head to our YouTube page to check out Parts 1 and 2.

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