If you’ve been watching the (limited) sports news, you know the NBA is moving toward a restart of the 2019-2020 season.
The plan is to restart at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. But the Corona-19 pandemic continues. Also, a group of NBA players, led by Kyrie Irving, is concerned returning to hoops will distract from the growing social justice movement. Other players, like Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards and Trevor Ariza of the Portland Trail Blazers, are opting to sit out.
One not sitting out of the restart, however, is former WVU Mountaineer and ex-Fairmont State coach Joe Mazzulla, now an assistant with the Boston Celtics.
As is his makeup, Joe is all in.
“They haven’t told us much yet,” Mazzulla said Tuesday of the NBA restart. “Everything is getting finalized. But I trust the NBA and everyone to put us in the safest environment to do what needs to be done. As long as it’s safe, I think it will be fun.”
Mazzulla has been playing it safe, remaining mostly at home, he said, except for a week of isolation at Cape Cod. (“I’ve enjoyed the time with the family,” he said. “It was a time for growth. Grateful we were able to do that.”)
Yet soon he’ll be going to the “bubble” in Orlando.
“I trust the people at the head of the Celtics organization,” Mazzulla said. “I trust the NBA. I think as long as we’re in a safe environment and we do the best we can, there’s not much we can worry about.”
Like everything around him, Mazzulla’s coaching career has been a whirlwind – yet in a good way. He was an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA G League during the 2016-17 season after going 43-17 over two seasons at Fairmont. He was also at Glenville.
Now he’s working for head coach Brad Stevens and the tradition-rich Celtics.
“The first year was about getting acclimated to Boston,” Mazzulla said. “My wife and kids had lived and grown up in West Virginia and moving to Boston was definitely an adjustment. But it’s been fun. Boston is a great city. There’s a lot to do. We had a good time getting acclimated as a family.”
Mazzulla said he’s all about player development with Boston.
“Helping with the workouts,” Mazzulla said. “Working with some of the younger players within our player development program. That’s the main component of the job – help facilitate workouts and player development.”
I asked how he managed the rough waters during the pandemic.
“Rely on relationships,” Mazzulla said. “It’s the same as if things were normal. Coaching is all about relationships and the more strong relationships you can build, where there’s great communication, there’s great opportunity to get better. You just have to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Oh, and yes, I asked about his coolest moment yet as an NBA assistant coach. Hanging with Stevens? Chilling with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum?
“I think just being from this area,” Mazzulla, a Rhode Island native, said. “My home is 40 minutes away and I can see my family anytime. Just living in the Boston area. Reconnecting with a lot of the people I lost touch with being away for so long.
“Of course, every day being able to work for the Celtics. Just driving to the facility, seeing the banners and the history. The whole process has been one neat moment.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.