One game. One win.
Joe Mazzulla got any questions as to whether or not he could cut it as an NBA head coach out of the way early.
Mazzulla, making his NBA regular season head coaching debut Tuesday night, coached the Boston Celtics to a 126-117 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston.
“It was a proud moment, I think, starting with the Bill Russell ceremony, and just talking to the team about the legacy he left,” Mazzulla said of his debut and pre-game ceremony afterward. “I pride myself in the Boston fans, and the city of Boston. And when they’re cheering for you, it means you’re doing something right.”
The game was nationally televised on TNT.
Despite the career accomplishment, the former Mountaineer wasn’t focused on himself when speaking with NBC Sports Boston following the victory.
“I’m sure it will [soak in], but I think it’s more important to focus on all the things we did great,” said Mazzulla, who noted later in the interview that he didn’t call a timeout during a Philadelphia run in the second quarter, “because I think that’s stuff we that have to work through as a team.”
Later asked by the pool of reporters if he took some time to soak in his first game as an NBA head coach, he again mentioned the pre-game ceremony.
“There are small moments of building that awareness to what’s going on around you,” said Mazzulla. “The Bill Russell ceremony brought a lot of gratitude, and it brought a lot of perspective to what it means to coach the Celtics and be a Celtic. So, that entire time was geared for that, and gratitude for that. And then throughout the game, finding small moments, like going up to your guys and saying how much fun it is.”
Celtics players showered the first-year head coach with water in the locker room post-game, and presented him with a game ball.
“I appreciate their trust, their buy-in,” said Mazzulla when asked about his relationship with his players. “But they come up with a lot of good stuff, as well. And we just kind of figure it out.”
Mazzulla’s Celtics shot 56.1 percent from the floor and outrebounded Philadelphia by five. The Celtics continued a trend they displayed in the four games under Mazzulla in the preseason by having more assists (24) than the opposition (17).
Boston also committed four fewer turnovers than Philadelphia and dominated the painted area.
Mazzulla’s Celtics trailed by five after the first quarter, but outscored the 76ers by 15 points over the next two quarters of play.
Mazzulla and Boston return to action on Friday, as they travel to Miami to take on the Heat. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.