- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2024

Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla refused to take the easy layup when faced with a question about being a Black head coach in the NBA Finals, instead turning the focus from race to faith.

During a Saturday press conference, Mazzulla was asked to comment about having two Black head coaches in the basketball finals for the first time since 1975. Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd is also Black.

“Given the plight sometimes of Black head coaches in the NBA, do you think this is a significant moment? Do you take pride in this? How do you view this, or do you not see it at all?” Yahoo Sports senior reporter Vincent Goodwill said.

A devout Catholic, Mazzulla responded: “I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches.”

His answer appeared to confound the press corps — the room went silent for several seconds — but delighted the faithful as the video clip made the rounds on social media.

“Coach Mazzulla appears to be more proud of his faith than the color of his skin. Me too!” Chad Hawley, founder of the NEXUS Mountain Network, a Christian social media network, wrote on X.

“I love Joe Mazzulla!” Jason Kates said. “His identity is not in his melanin level. His identity is not in his job or his success in that job. His identity is in Jesus Christ.”

Sports commentator T.J. Moe said: “This dude is now my favorite coach in all of sports. Instead of taking the bait to talk about race senselessly over and over, he shifted the conversation to values.”

The fan account CelticsForum declared: “Joe Mazzulla does not see color/Joe Mazzulla uses his platform to take a stand for Christ/Joe Mazzulla is my coach,” adding the “100%” emoji.

Also cheering was the conservative sports outlet OutKick, which gave Mazzulla props for “shut[ting] down a race-baiting question in epic fashion.”

This isn’t the first time Mazzulla has defied reporters’ expectations by bringing up his faith.

In November, he was asked what he thought about “the Royal Family” attending a game, referring to a surprise appearance by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph?” replied Mazzulla, adding, “I’m only familiar with one royal family.”

Less impressed was Goodwill, who followed up with an op-ed in Yahoo Sports chiding the coach for refusing to delve into the race issue.

“It isn’t Mazzulla’s fault the history is the history,” said the article. “But he should at least be aware of it. Ignoring race in these matters isn’t progress, because it can infer that seeing someone as Black means something negative. Colorblindness is impossible, and seeing someone’s Blackness or the Black experience as a positive could be the ultimate sign of progress.”

The Celtics beat the Mavericks 105-98 in Sunday’s game at TD Garden, putting Boston ahead 2-0 in the series.

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