In the void left behind by Bill Belichick, Joe Mazzulla’s introverted-ness has risen to the occasion. And no, I’m not talking about the Boston Celtics giving the New England area a front-runner they desperately need. Mazzulla is the boorish head coach of a major professional franchise that the affable Jerod Mayo isn’t.
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After a year of having his qualifications, his background, his coaching acumen, and his readiness questioned, Mazzulla has taken a combative approach to his league-mandated media responsibilities. Unless you ask him about The Town, he’s a geyser.
Mazzulla’s favorite movie is just about the only time you will generate a positive reaction out of him when it doesn’t pertain to the details of a Celtics win. Mazzulla gets absolutely indignant at times, especially when he has the high ground.
He’s not as dry as ole William Belichick, but he carries himself with a similar anti-media disposition. Answering tough questions is the worst part of everyone’s job. Imagine having to do it every day. When you examine a little closer, Mazzulla’s reasoning is less of a prick and more of an awkward personality.
Belichick mastered the art of conversational minimalism. “On to Cincinnati” will probably be carved into his tombstone one day. He would say as little as possible if he didn’t decide the question was sufficient. Mazzulla, on the other hand, conducts himself like he’s gripping dumbbells that are too heavy with the tension of a bodybuilder.
After Boston obliterated the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of their semifinal series last May, Mazzulla ended his press conference with a sarcastic comment inquiring if anyone was interested in the adjustments he’d made.
Finding the topics Mazzulla does care about requires poking and prodding and mashing buttons. He was proactive following a win over the San Antonio Spurs about not getting questions related to Victor Wembanyama. But when a reporter asked him about Pascal Siakam being traded to the Indiana Pacers, Mazzulla abruptly cut off the question.
“Save yourself the rest of the question. I don’t really care,” Mazzulla interrupted.
In early November, Mazzulla told the media that he didn’t care how he was perceived after he challenged a call during the waning minutes of a bloody win over the Raptors.
When asked by Washburn if he was concerned about his relationship with opposing NBA coaches after running up the score on the Chicago Bulls in their In-Season Tournament group stage finale, Mazzulla responded, “How can I say this nicely — I don’t care.”
But he does have love for the new Patriots coach.
“He does have my support and I can’t wait to go over there and sit with him, and just learn from him,” Mazzulla said Wednesday.
Buddy, pick a lane. Half the time, Mazzulla oscillates between quips, sarcasm, and annoyance — so at least he’s got range.
Nobody would confuse Mazzulla with a coach who has it all figured out yet, which is why his arrogance can rub people even worse. But his distinct animosity towards reporters has an extremely Belichickian vibe. Boston sports media can be rough and Mazzulla is trying to be rougher. Fortunately for him, he is on top of the world. He helms a Celtics team that is threatening to be the wire-to-wire top team out east.