Boston Celtics coach wears shirt thanking God after team wins record-setting NBA title

Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics yells while lifting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after Boston's 106-88 win against the Dallas Mavericks in gave five of the 2024 NBA Finals in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 17, 2024,
Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics yells while lifting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after Boston's 106-88 win against the Dallas Mavericks in gave five of the 2024 NBA Finals in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 17, 2024, | Elsa/Getty Images

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla wore a shirt expressing gratitude to God as his team captured the National Basketball Association championship title on Monday, saying "faith" is the most important thing for this team. 

The Celtics defeated the Dallas Mavericks 106-88 Monday night, clinching a four-games-to-one NBA Finals series win. It's Boston's first title since 2008 and 18th overall, the most of any NBA franchise. 

During the trophy celebration, Mazzulla, 35, donned a black T-shirt that reads: "But First … Let Me Thank God."

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"Obviously, for us, for me, our faith is the most important thing," Mazzulla said in his opening remarks during the celebration before praising the Celtics fans as "the best fans in the world."

"You get very few chances in life to be great. You get very few chances in life to carry on the ownership and responsibility of what these [Celtics championship] banners are and all the great people and great players that came here. When you get a few chances, you just got to take the bull by the horns and just own it. And our guys owned it."

Mazzulla, a Catholic, also reacted to his team's accomplishment in an appearance on ESPN's "Sports Center."

During the interview, Mazzulla wore the same shirt reading: "But First … Let Me Thank God." While the coach did not directly address his shirt on the program, he described his role as Celtics head coach as "a blessing," adding, "I don't deserve it. But because of grace, I'm here."

In another postgame interview, Mazzulla revealed that he told Celtics star Jayson Tatum to "have faith" because "God put us here for a reason."

"We've all been through stuff. The circumstances that we got the job under were not great, but we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and God has us where we are at," he said. "We just got to be patient and take your time and use all the pain and stuff that you've been through in life for the next opportunity."

Last week, Mazzulla responded to a question asking if he believed it was a "significant moment" that two teams led by African American head coaches were heading off to the championship in light of the "plight" that black coaches face. He declared, "I wonder how many of those were Christian coaches." 

Mazzulla's answer may have implied that his identity in Christ is more important to him than his skin color. His comment also referenced the fact that Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd — while half black and half Irish — is also Catholic. Both coaches are graduates of Catholic high schools. 

Throughout his tenure as head coach of the Celtics, Mazzulla has repeatedly brought up his Christian faith.

After the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals, Mazzulla insisted that "It's just where God has us right now" when pressed as to why it was "the right time" for the team to achieve such an accomplishment.

In 2022, Mazzulla responded to a question about whether he met with members of the British royal family who attended a November 2022 matchup between the Celtics and the Miami Heat by asking 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 British royal family while reiterating, "I'm only familiar with one royal family."

"I don't know too much about the other one," he insisted, referring to the British royal family. A profile of Mazzulla written by a Rhode Island-based sports blogger after he first became head coach of the Celtics notes that he attended and played basketball at Bishop Hendricken High School, a Catholic all-boys school in the state. 

The article identified the native of Johnston, Rhode Island, as "a faithful Catholic" and "a focused man of faith who counts priests among his dearest confidants."

In an interview shortly after he became the Celtics' head coach, Mazzulla declared that "my identity comes from my faith and my purpose." During the interview, Mazzulla suggested that his past run-ins with the law  — underage drinking and fighting with police at a Pittsburgh Pirates game in 2008 and arrest for domestic battery in 2009 after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck at a bar — has made him a better man. 

"I can't talk about specifics, but I'm not the same person that I was," he told CBS Boston. "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. ... 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."

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

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