Don’t know much about Joe Mazzola? Let us catch you up on the new Celtics coach.

Mazzola is the 19th coach of the green team, after legends like Reed Auerbach, Bill Russell, Tommy Heinson, KC Jones, Rick Pettino (Galeb), and Doc Rivers.

However, we know almost nothing about this man.

Mazzola held his first training at the Auerbach Center on Tuesday and took a few minutes to speak for himself after undergoing his first post-training briefing.

Is it hard to be a head coach in the NBA when you’re not an NBA player?

He replied, “I have great players and great people around me, so that just allows me to be who I am.” “I’ve been here for four years and built relationships. I don’t think the players care where I come from, or they care because I’ve played. I think they care because I care about them.

“I’m 0-0, so no one is mad at me yet.”

He was born in Johnston, RI, to a Sicilian father (Daniel Mazzola Jr.) and a black mother (Latrica). His father and grandfather spent their working lives in the Johnston Parks and Recreation Department. Dan Mazzola Jr., who died of a brain tumor in 2020, is inducted into the Bryant College Hall of Fame and played five seasons of semi-professional basketball in Chile. Latrica lives in California.

“I played against old Joe’s man in the ’70s,” recalls Leo Papelli, who created Boston Amateur Basketball Club and served 16 years as a scouting manager for the Celtics and personnel manager. Danny Mazzola was a street legend in Johnston, Rhode Island.

“He wasn’t a guy you wanted to argue with in a bar at 2 a.m. That wouldn’t end well for you. He was like Jim Loskutov and he was a hell of a player. We had a hand-to-hand fight when we were playing against each other in a semi-pro game in North Providence in ’19. 73, but later on we became really good friends. He was a really good guy.”

Mazzulla was the center of attention as the Celtics kicked off their training camp this week.Matthew J. Lee / Globe Stuff

Joe Mazzola learned his game from his father at Johnston Courts, where he attended Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick (class of 2006), where the Hawks won state titles in their last three seasons. He played his summer ball for the Rhode Island Breakers, an amateur youth team.

“we [BABC] Babili said. “But he was very loyal. We didn’t even bother asking. Joe never left his buddies.”

Anthony Gurley, who won the Massachusetts state title in Newton North before playing at Wake Forest and U. Mass., remembers playing Babc’s games against Mazola.

“Joe was a great competitor,” Gurley said. “Left. Smooth. Fierce competitor. He was very smart and never afraid to take the big shot. He was just a confident and hardworking worker.

“I lost track of him, and two years later, I was watching the Celtics on TV and I was like, ‘Hey, I know that guy. This is Joe from The Breakers. It’s great to see someone like this step into a role like his now.”

Mazzulla went to “FleetCenter” to watch the Celtics several times during his youth (no Larry Bird games, no Michael Jordan games), but like most kids from Rhode Island, he grew up rooting for Providence Friars.

“We had season tickets to the Providence games,” Mazola recalls. “Section 108. I met Mike Brown, God Shamgood, Donnie McGrath. But they didn’t recruit me from high school. He did the URI because Jimmy Barron was there and I played Jimmy in high school.”

Mazzulla ended up in West Virginia, which turned out to be five eventful years.

The good: The Mountaineers won the NIT in its first season. New coach Bob Huggins joined Mazzulla’s second season and took them all the way to the Final Four in 2010. Mazzulla played a big role in the UWV’s surprise 7-point win over Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

The bad: Mazzola has come to police blotter more than once in West Virginia, including charging a local battery after an incident at a Morgantown bar in 2009.

“I hurt people and had to use situations where I put myself as a younger man to learn from and become a better person,” Mazola said when his arrest record was lifted on Media Day Monday.

Today he lives in West Newton with his wife Cammy, stepson Michael and son Emmanuel.

“I’m not the same person I used to be,” he said.

He has a job no one would have imagined in 2006 when he was making big shots for Hendricken, or in 2009, when he served a suspension for one of his college arrests, or in 2019 when he was coaching Division 2 Vermont State at West. Virginia.

His two seasons in Little Vermont represent the entirety of Mazola’s coaching experience. Recently last spring, he was still sitting in back row From the Celtic training chorus, and not even worthy of the main bench where the important players and coaches sit.

Now he is in Reed’s seat.

“He’s like the third quarterback on the NFL depth chart,” Babelli said. “He listens all day and has a game plan. As a key keeper, he was really cerebral. He didn’t make any mistakes and didn’t allow his followers to make a mistake.

“Joe was a guy who taught himself to break out of a losing streak. He’s not a flashy Hollywood type guy. He can’t wait to get back to the gym with his guys.

“Whether he’s playing at La Salle Academy or the Lakers, I don’t think it matters. Joe could have been a rookie coach at Hendricken. He figured out what it takes to be a good basketball team. Now he’s going to have a chance to do it on a big stage.”

More Celtics Stories


Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Globe. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

Leave a Comment