With the WVU football team struggling, a bright light for Mountaineer sports fans has been Joe Mazzulla.
Of course, Mazzulla, the former West Virginia basketball standout, took over as interim head coach of the Boston Celtics when Ime Udoka was suspended by the team. Although the Celtics players might have been stunned, they nevertheless hailed putting Mazzulla in as the head coach.
The good times continued as Boston won the first three games of the young NBA season. In the fourth game, at Chicago’s United Center on Monday, the Celtics sprinted to a 19-point lead. Finally, though, Mazzulla and the Celtics hit a setback when the Bulls went on a 35-15 run and won.
I’m sort of wondering if even that loss earned Mazzulla some points with his team. He was ejected after backing star Jayson Tatum’s questioning of an official’s decision. (“Regardless of what happens, we have to be better, more composed, and it starts with me,” Mazzulla said afterward.)
The point of this blog, though, (sheesh, talk about burying the lead), is that none of Mazzulla’s head coaching saga might have happened if Boston team owner Wyc Grousbeck hadn’t thrown a block.
According to Scott McLaughlin of Boston’s WEEI, the Utah Jazz swooped in and took one of Udoka’s assistants, Will Hardy, and named him as head coach. Jazz CEO Danny Ainge then apparently wanted to take a second – Mazzulla – according to Grousbeck on The Greg Hill Show.
“I prevented Danny from stealing him this summer, because I told Danny I’d fly to Utah and personally strangle him if he did. You can quote that,” said McLaughlin’s article.
“You can take one person, an assistant and make them a head coach, which they did with Will Hardy,” Grousbeck continued. “Then they also wanted Mazzulla and I was like, ‘That’s it, you’re crossing the line, and we’re not having it.’”
So far it looks like the block was a very good move on Grousbeck’s behalf.
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Finally, a note about WVU’s basketball team. As I’ve pointed out, the rebuilt Mountaineers (I think I might recognize three players to start the season) will play a very difficult schedule.
Looking down the just released USA Today coaches preseason poll, I see future opponents like No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 5 Kansas, No. 6 Baylor, No. 12 Texas, No. 15 Auburn, No. 16 TCU, No. 24 Texas Tech,
That’s not counting Purdue, which sits just outside (would be No. 26 if that existed). WVU begins its November tournament in Portland with the Boilermakers before probably facing Gonzaga (the Zags have to beat Portland State first). No. 8 Duke, Florida, Oregon State and Xavier are also in the event.
Anyway (AGAIN burying the lead), you might have heard the WVU played its “secret scrimmage” against Dayton last weekend at Bethany College. You might have also heard the whispers that the Mountaineers won by 12.
The good news for WVU fans is those Flyers also appear in the USA Today preseason poll at No. 25. So even a one-point win would be somewhat significant.
Should be interesting to see Bob Huggins’ rebuilt team.
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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.