Boston Celtics coach responds to question about race by pointing to Christ

Boston Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzulla speaks to reporters at a press conference, June 8, 2024.
Boston Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzulla speaks to reporters at a press conference, June 8, 2024. | Screenshot: YouTube/CLNS Media Boston Sports Network

Boston Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzulla touted his Christian faith as he was asked over the weekend about the relevance of both head coaches in this year's NBA Finals being black. 

Mazzulla, a 35-year-old Catholic, took questions from the media at a press conference Saturday as his team is competing against the Dallas Mavericks to bring home the NBA championship. Vince Goodwill of Yahoo Sports noted, "For the first time since 1975, this is the NBA Finals where you have two black head coaches."

"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?" Goodwill asked.

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Mazzulla responded: "I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches," perhaps implying that his identity in Christ is more important to him than his skin color. 

The room went silent for several seconds before Mazzulla answered a completely different question. 

Mazzulla's answer could also have been a reference to the fact that Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd — while half black and half Irish — is also Catholic. As The National Catholic Reporter notes, both coaches are graduates of Catholic high schools 

Mazzulla has been open about his Christian faith during his short tenure as the Celtics' head coach.

As his team clinched a spot in the NBA Finals two weeks ago, a reporter reminded Mazzulla, "You've said that the NBA is all about timing," asking him, "Why is this the right time for this group?"

"It's just where God has us right now," he replied. "We're all where we're supposed to be and right now, everyone's mindset is on helping each other and winning."

In 2022, Mazzulla responded to a question about whether he had a chance to meet with members of the British Royal Family who attended a November 2022 game between the Celtics and the Miami Heat. In response, Mazulla asked if the reporter was referring to "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."

When the reporter clarified that she was talking about "the Prince and Princess of Wales," Mazzulla indicated that he did not get to meet with the members of the British Royal Family.

"I'm only familiar with one Royal Family," he said. "I don't know too much about that one."

Mazzulla spoke about his faith in an interview with Sports Spectrum in April. 

"In the competitive environment that we are in, we are always used to earning something," he said when asked about the concept of grace. "When you apply that competitive nature to your faith, it creates a lot of, for me, anxiety, stress and like and separation from Christ. So when I was able to really go down the road to grace and understanding that I can't earn it, and I don't have to be competitive, it's not a win or loss. It's an acceptance. That is one of the virtues that we can really show each other in the world today."

The 2024 NBA Finals kicked off Thursday and two games have already taken place. The Celtics have won both games so far, and the first team to win four games will become the NBA champion for the 2023-2024 season.

While games are slated to take place through June 23 if necessary, the NBA Finals could end as soon as Friday if the Celtics win the contests on Wednesday and Friday. If necessary, the three remaining games in the tournament are scheduled for June 17, 20 and 23.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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