Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla coached with a torn meniscus, will have knee surgery after winning NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics beat the Dallas Mavericks to win the 2024 NBA Finals Monday night, and while the celebrations have only just begun, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla may have to tread lightly after coaching his team to a title. Mazzulla shared Monday night that he will have to undergo knee surgery after tearing his meniscus back in March, which will keep him out of commission for a while.

“I gotta have knee surgery, I tore my meniscus in March after we lost to Atlanta,” Mazzulla said. “So first thing I gotta do is get back on the mats. I’m going to be out for a little while. I’ve been working through it since March.”

The fact that Mazzulla was coaching on a torn meniscus is wild but not at all shocking, given the lore surrounding him. During the Celtics’ title run, players talked about how Mazzulla would show the team UFC fights for motivation. He has a background in mixed martial arts, which includes practicing jiu-jitsu and training with UFC champions when he’s not coaching the Celtics.

He’s also not the first NBA coach to endure a knee injury this season. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch collided with Mike Conley during a playoff game against the Suns and had surgery on a torn patellar tendon in his right knee a few days later. The surgery relegated Finch to a second-row seat behind the Wolves’ bench to start Minnesota’s second-round series against the Nuggets.

Having knee surgery this offseason shouldn’t hinder Mazzulla’s ability to return to the sideline in the fall for next season. Now that the Celtics have captured a championship, Mazzulla’s probably happy he held off on addressing the injury until the season was over. He became the youngest coach since Celtics legend Bill Russell to win an NBA championship at just 35 years of age, and with a young nucleus that’s all under contract for next season, Boston should be right atop the list of championship contenders to repeat again.

Mazzulla will also have a rehab buddy in Kristaps Porzingis. The Celtics big man made his return from a rare lower leg injury during Game 5 against the Mavericks and earned his first championship ring. However, Porzingis is far from healed and will require surgery, followed by a “few months” of recovery, according to ESPN.

Mazulla’s path to becoming an NBA coach started when he became an assistant under Ime Udoka in 2019. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at the college level, as well as for Boston’s G League affiliate team. He became the Celtics interim head coach days before training camp of the 2022-23 season after Udoka was suspended for the entirety of the season due to violating team policy. Udoka found employment elsewhere, becoming the head coach of the Rockets, and the interim tag was removed from Mazzulla’s title. After leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals in his first year at the helm, he’s now coached the franchise to its first championship since 2008.

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