A good way to learn your craft — any craft — is to study under the best in the field.
Joe Mazzulla has a way of aligning himself with some of the best coaches in the basketball business, and now the former West Virginia University standout can add another impressive name to that list.
Mazzulla came to WVU as a recruit for former Mountaineer coach John Beilein, who went on to Michigan when he left Morgantown and is now in the NBA as the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach. Of course, Bob Huggins replaced Beilein at West Virginia, and Mazzulla was a big part of Huggins’ 2010 Mountaineer team that made a run to the Final Four.
WVU lost to Duke in the national semifinal that season before the Blue Devils went on to beat Butler in that championship game. The Bulldogs coach that day? Brad Stevens. Mazzulla didn’t get a chance to go up against Stevens’ team in 2010, but he’s about to get a much closer look at the former Butler and current Boston Celtics coach.
Mazzulla is leaving his post at Fairmont State, where he has been the head coach the last two seasons, to take a job as an assistant coach for Stevens and the Celtics, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. A Fairmont State official confirmed the move to the Gazette-Mail on Monday afternoon.
“Although it’s tough to see such a great leader and friend leave our program, we could not be more thrilled for Joe and his family,” Fairmont State athletic director Chad Fowler said in a release from the school. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Joe to coach in the NBA and we look forward to watching him grow as a coach and a leader on Brad Stevens’ staff in Boston.”
In his two seasons in charge at Fairmont State, Mazzulla’s teams went 43-17. Last season, he led the Fighting Falcons to a 22-9 record with a loss to Mercyhurst in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament.
Mazzulla, a Rhode Island native, was also an assistant at Glenville State, Fairmont State and for the Celtics’ D League (now G League) team the Maine Red Claws prior to taking over as head coach at Fairmont.
“We would like to thank Joe and his family for their hard work and dedication to Fairmont State University, the men’s basketball program, and the community of Fairmont,” Fairmont State president Mirta M. Martin said in the release. “We could not be prouder of what he accomplished here at Fairmont State and we look forward to watching his career moving forward with the Boston Celtics.”
Mazzulla is the latest former Huggins player or assistant coach to move his way up the basketball coaching ladder. The man Mazzulla replaced at Fairmont State, former Huggins assistant Jerrod Calhoun, left the Fighting Falcons to become the head coach at Youngstown State.
“We are certainly happy for Joe,” Huggins said in an emailed comment to the Gazette-Mail. “Every player has a dream to play in the NBA. That didn’t work out for him, but he has the opportunity to coach in the NBA. It’s great seeing people achieve those dreams.”
Others from the Huggins coaching tree include:
n Jonnie West — Another member of the WVU 2010 Final Four team and the son of Jerry West — a basketball legend at East Bank High, WVU and in the NBA. The younger West is currently the Director of Basketball Operations for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
n Frank Martin — Currently the head coach at the University of South Carolina, Martin was a Huggins assistant at both Cincinnati and Kansas State. He took over as the head coach at K-State when Huggins left the Wildcats for WVU. Martin’s branch on Huggins’ coaching tree has been a productive one. Former Martin assistants Brad Underwood (Illinois) and Matt Figger (Austin Peay) are currently Division I head coaches. Also, branching off from Underwood is current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton.
n Mick Cronin — Cronin’s first basketball job was as the video coordinator for Huggins at Cincinnati in 1996. He stayed on the Bearcats staff under Huggins through 2001 and returned to UC to become the head coach in 2006. Cronin spent 13 years as the Bearcats’ head coach before taking the same job at UCLA in April.
n Darris Nichols — A former Mountaineer player and member of WVU’s 2007 National Invitational Tournament championship team, Nichols served as a graduate assistant on the 2010 West Virginia Final Four team. From there he made stops as an assistant coach at Northern Kentucky, Wofford and Louisiana Tech before landing on the bench at the University of Florida in 2015, where he currently remains as an assistant for the Gators.
n Andy Kennedy — Kennedy was on Huggins’ staff at Cincinnati starting in 2001 and took over the program as the interim head coach when Huggins was forced out at UC prior to the 2005-2006 season. After one season in charge of the Bearcats, Kennedy returned to his native Mississippi to become the head coach at Ole Miss, where he stayed until resigning on Feb. 18, 2018. Kennedy is currently a television analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network.