When Joe Mazzulla took over as interim head coach of the Boston Celtics, there were plenty of reasons to believe that he wouldn't succeed.
Boston had just suspended Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season following his inappropriate intimate relationship with a female staffer, and Mazzulla's only experience as a head coach had come at Fairmont State, a Division II program, from 2017-19.
A team that had just come within two wins of its 18th title in franchise history had its world flipped upside down, and now it was Mazzulla's job to rally the troops.
Rally the troops he did, as Mazzulla led Boston to an 18-4 record to open the season en route to NBA Coach of the Month honors for October and November. The Celtics eventually removed Mazzulla's interim tag in mid-February before going on to finish the regular season 57-25, good for second in the Eastern Conference.
However, Boston's playoff run ended in heartbreak, as the Celtics came up one victory short of making a return to the Finals.
All things considered, Mazzulla was strong in Year 1, but with the success there also came criticism, and it was certainly warranted at times.
Mazzulla now has a full season under his belt and fortunately didn't have to deal with any surprise scandals over the summer, so let's take a look at what he should be prioritizing in his sophomore campaign:
Even if a fire broke out in the middle of a game, that still might not have been enough to get Mazzulla to use a timeout last season.
Mazzulla's hesitancy to stop play was without a doubt fans' biggest gripe with the first-year head coach, especially after Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
So, will anything change this season? Well, probably not.
Speaking on "The Old Man and the Three" podcast, Mazzulla told JJ Reddick that he stands by his strategy of not calling timeouts. According to Mazzulla, it was the poor execution of that strategy, not the strategy itself, that caused issues for Boston a season ago.
Maybe Mazzulla was able to make the right adjustments this offseason, and maybe this team now has what it takes to play through an extended run by an opponent. With that being said, there's still going to be instances where a timeout is the only thing that can stop the bleeding, and Mazzulla is going to have to pick up on that in 2023-24.