The Boston Celtics were thrown a curveball just before the 2022-23 NBA season, but Joe Mazzulla is helping them hit it out of the park.
Mazzulla was named Boston's interim head coach in late September after the team suspended Ime Udoka for one year due to violations of team policies. The Celtics haven't missed a beat under their new boss, surging to an NBA-best 12-3 record through 15 games.
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How good has Boston been under Mazzulla? After the team's rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, Mazzulla is tied with Chad Ford of the 1990-91 Celtics for the second-best start by a first-year head coach in franchise history. (Hat tip to C's legend Cedric Maxwell for sharing.)
The only coach Mazzulla trails is the great Bill Russell, who guided the 1966-67 Celtics to a 14-2 start in his first of three seasons as Boston's player-coach.
Russell did plenty to help his own cause that season by averaging 13.3 points, 21.0 rebounds (!) and 5.8 assists per game. So, if we're just talking coaches who don't play, Mazzulla is at the top of the list alongside Ford.
The Celtics will need to keep rolling if Mazzulla wants to pass Ford, as Ford's 1990-91 squad won three straight after its third loss to improve to 15-3. While the C's have won eight in a row, they face a tough test Friday night in New Orleans against Pelicans team riding a three-game winning streak.
Even if Mazzulla can't get Boston to 15-3, however, it's clear he has the Celtics firing on all cylinders. The C's are averaging a ridiculous 120.4 points per game (No. 1 in the NBA) and boast a plus-7.1 point differential, nearly two full points better than the next-closest team.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that Mazzulla is line to be the Celtics' long-term head coach beyond this season, and based on early returns, it's easy to see why.