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Joe Mazzulla says he's a better man because of past legal issues

BOSTON -- After suspending Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violating team policies, the Boston Celtics were left looking for a new head coach. Brad Stevens said last week that the most logical replacement for Udoka was Boston assistant Joe Mazzulla.

Mazzulla takes over with no head coaching experience in the NBA. His only time as a head coach came in Division 2 when he spent two years at Fairmont State. But he's been in Boston since 2019, first under Stevens and then with Udoka for one year, and Boston players are confident that he has what it takes to be an NBA head coach.

Unfortunately, Mazzulla's issues with the law came to light after he was promoted in the wake of Udoka's suspension. While in college at West Virginia, he was charged with underage drinking and fighting with police at a Pittsburgh Pirates game in 2008. He was arrested for domestic battery in 2009 after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck at a bar

Mazzulla did not sidestep or belittle those incidents when asked about them on Monday. He said that both of them happened at a time when he was directionless in life, and has shaped the man that he is today.

"I can't talk about specifics, but I'm not the same person that I was. As you grow as a person, you're constantly having to build an identity. I didn't have one at a certain point in my life for whatever reason," Mazzulla explained. "You have to find a foundation, and for me that's my faith. How can I impact people positively around me? That is something that I have learned throughout my life.  

"I've made mistakes. I'm not perfect," he said. "I've hurt people and I have had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man to learn from and become a better person. That's what I've been focusing on: How can I recreate my identity as a person, rely on my faith, and have a positive impact on the people around me?"

Having a positive impact on people is the reason that Mazzulla got into coaching.

"I know my why. If you don't have a compass, it's very hard to direct yourself," he said. "You have to learn that on your own sometimes. My identity comes from my faith and my purpose. I got into coaching because I've had people pour into me, sacrifice for me, and I want to do that for my players."

The Celtics will hold their first practice under Mazzulla on Tuesday when training camp tips off. Boston will play its first preseason game on Sunday, with the regular season set to begin on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.

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