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A Rhode Islander could soon be leading the Celtics

Joe Mazzulla was the head coach of the Celtics for the 2021 NBA Summer League season.Ethan Miller/Getty

The next man up for the Boston Celtics could be a Rhode Islander.

If you haven’t heard, the Globe confirmed Wednesday that Celtics coach Ime Udoka could be facing a long-term suspension for violating team policy, and The Athletic reports that it’s connected to an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a woman on staff.

If Udoka faces any kind of suspension, a big question will be who takes over as head coach until he returns to the bench.

Enter Joe Mazzulla, the Bishop Hendricken graduate who starred in college at West Virginia and has been an assistant coach with the Celtics since 2019.


My colleague Adam Himmelsbach writes that Mazzulla is “viewed as a rising star in coaching.” He got loads of attention this summer when he interviewed for the open Utah Jazz head coaching job, but it ultimately went to another Celtics assistant, Will Hardy. That got Mazzulla a promotion to bench coach.

Mazzulla, a Johnston native, was one of the best high school basketball players in the history of Rhode Island, and in college, he famously led the Mountaineers past a Kentucky team that included future NBA all-stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to get to the Final Four.

It’s only a matter of time before Mazzulla lands a head coaching job in the NBA. But the possible Udoka suspension might open the door sooner than he thought.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.