The Boston Celtics are likely still reeling from their crushing Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Miami Heat, but they aren't going to completely stand pat and wallow in their misery. Some big moves could be made to the C's roster this offseason, but it looks like they are already revamping their coaching staff, with Sam Cassell being added to the staff as a top assistant for Joe Mazzulla.
Mazzulla had a strong first season with the Celtics, but it was clear along the way that he needed some more experience on his coaching staff in order to truly help him out. Not only is Cassell a 15-year NBA veteran who won a ring with the Celtics in 2008, but he's also been working as an assistant coach since 2009 as well, primarily working alongside Doc Rivers.
With Rivers getting canned by the Philadelphia 76ers, Cassell was likely going to be on the move, and after being linked to the C's as a potential assistant, or even head coach, for a few years now, he has finally found his way back to Boston. There's no question this is a great hire for the Celtics, but there is a potential caveat to Cassell's hire that could actually hurt this team.
Why Sam Cassell's hiring could eventually cause the Celtics trouble
Mazzulla found himself in quite the pickle when he was tasked with being the Celtics new leader just days before the season after Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire 2022-23 season by the team for a sexual misconduct incident. Boston nearly made it back to the NBA Finals and pulled off a historic 3-0 series rally under Mazzulla's watch, but it was clear that he, and the rest of the coaching staff, suffered from a lack of experience throughout the season.
Adding Cassell should fix that. Not only is he a veteran assistant coach who is familiar with the region, but he is also a former player who knows how to connect with his players. Cassell has been in pretty much every single situation a player can face in the NBA, which means that his opinion is something that cannot be taken lightly. Players respond to coaches with that kind of reputation, and Cassell certainly has quite a solid reputation across the league.
Assuming the Celtics play up to their potential, this move is a home run hit for the team. Cassell will be Mazzulla's right hand man, and he will add something that this coaching staff sorely lacked last season. Coaching can only do so much in the NBA, but it's clear that Cassell is just the type of guy Boston needs to help out Mazzulla since he will be sticking around.
However, there is an interesting conundrum that could pop up with this Cassell hire. Cassell has been coaching as an assistant since immediately after he retired in 2009, and has been a top head coaching candidate in recent cycles. Cassell hasn't gotten his big break yet, but he likely will if he is able to help Boston find their way to the promised land next season.
If Boston struggles, though, that could create an interesting dynamic between Mazzulla and Cassell. Mazzulla isn't overly popular with Celtics fans for the most part, and practically lucked his way into this job when Udoka was suspended. Cassell has been working towards getting to lead his own team for years now, and is easily a more experienced coach than Mazzulla.
Could fans call for Cassell to replace Mazzulla as the team's head coach if things don't go Boston's way at any point next season? Chances are that would happen. Cassell was a popular choice among fans during the Udoka hiring cycle, and again, he appears to have key qualities that Mazzulla didn't exactly prove himself to have in his first.
Mazzulla will be given time to figure things out, but the addition of Cassell, which should make his life easier, also increases the pressure on his shoulders. If the Celtics win, all is well. But if they don't, there's a perfect candidate to replace Mazzulla in Cassell breathing down his neck too. It could be quite an interesting dynamic.
Nobody is saying that Boston shouldn't have hired Cassell, and chances are this hypothetical situation will never have to be broached by the team. But it does create an interesting situation that could give the front office flexibility with their coaching staff moving forward, or also make their lives increasingly difficult. The stakes were already high for Joe Mazzulla, but with Sam Cassell on board, it seems clear that if he doesn't keep winning with Boston, his job could be in jeopardy.