More Celtics Skeletons Emerging About Playoff Impact Of Losing Assistant Coach Damon Stoudamire | Joe Mazzulla Used Him As Conduit To Players

The Boston Celtics concluded a tumultuous season with a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat. According to reports, it wasn’t just the loss of head coach Ime Udoka on the eve of training camp but also the loss of assistant coach Damon Stoudamire in March that contributed to the team’s uneven play.

Bad Signs Before Training Camp

The Celtics were a season removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals, where they held a 2-1 lead with game four on their home floor. They eventually succumbed to the Golden State Warriors but the belief was this team would be back next year looking for redemption.

On the eve of training camp it was revealed that then head coach Ime Udoka had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and he was relieved of his duties, replaced by Joe Mazzulla. That sudden change was rocky leaving many of the Celtics players and coaches confused.

But the team looked like they were still focused, holding the No. 1 spot in the league for a good portion of the season before eventually settling into second place in the eastern conference. They were No. 1 in aNET rating, No. 2 in aORTG, and No. 3 in aDRTG. Hallmarks of a title contender.

In March Stoudamire, who many of the players thought would be named interim coach, got the head coaching position at Georgia Tech and that left a leadership void on the bench.

“It’s not like Damon had a certain power, but players really respected him,” one team source told The Athletic this week. “Joe used Damon to have a guy that’s been here that’s played that can speak to them. Damon could speak their language and no one else on the staff can do (it).”

Fans don’t often think about the roles of coaches beyond calling timeouts and drawing up plays. But a team is like a mini corporation with all sorts of competing interests and personalities. Oftentimes the only way to get through to a player is with another player. Someone who can empathize with what they are going through because they’ve faced something similar.

This Is A People Business

No Udoka, no Stoudamire, and Will Hardy, who was on Udoka’s staff last season, left to become the head coach of the Utah Jazz. That’s a lot of upheaval on the bench, and despite the team’s regular-season success, it clearly impacted them.

“I loved having Damon around,” Jaylen Brown said at the time it was announced Stoudamire got the Georgia Tech job. “He’s probably one of my favorite people in the organization, so it’s tough. But I’m extremely excited for him to start his journey, especially in my hometown [of Atlanta].”

Brown, who already feels some type of way about the organization, as he was rumored to be a part of a potential trade for Kevin Durant, was clearly impacted. One of his “favorite” individuals in the organization is now gone. Who does he trust on the Celtics now?

Regardless of what you think about the money these players make and what they actually get paid to do, this is a people business. It is still a place where people come to work. When you don’t like the atmosphere or have resentment about your work environment, performance is often negatively impacted.

In the past seven seasons the Celtics have made five conference finals appearances and an NBA Finals appearance. Brown and Jayson Tatum are among the best duos in the league. This team is excellent. There are some areas where they need to see improvement both on the court and in the areas that fans don’t often see.

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