2022-23 Coach of the Year Award Odds: Can Joe Mazzulla Win Despite Being an Interim Coach?

profile image of Jason.Lake
Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla directs his team on January 11, 2023. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP.

NBA Pick: Joe Mazzulla To Win COY (+200) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

Bovada logo
Joe Mazzulla To Win COY (+200)
Visit Site

There’s one obvious choice on the NBA odds list for Coach of the Year – and it’s a guy who isn’t even officially a head coach. Can someone who isn’t a head coach win the NBA Coach of the Year award? We may find out this April when the usual gang of sports writers sends in their ballots; as we go to press, Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla is the +200 favorite at Bovada.

It’s complicated. Mazzulla is still technically Boston’s interim coach, having replaced the suspended Ime Udoka in late September. The Celtics have some “procedural elements” preventing them from making Mazzulla their full-on head coach, mostly because Udoka is still on the payroll.

This won’t disqualify Mazzulla from winning the Red Auerbach Trophy. If anything, the unusual circumstances surrounding his promotion should only encourage voters to put Mazzulla at the top of their list – and we should therefore consider doing the same with our NBA picks.

What Are the Odds?

It’s a pretty tight race for now, at least according to the NBA futures at Bovada. There are 6 strong candidates leading the way:

  • Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics (+200)
  • Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn Nets (+300)
  • Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets (+350)
  • Willie Green, New Orleans Pelicans (+400)
  • Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies (+450)
  • Mike Brown, Sacramento Kings (+650)

Each of these coaches is enjoying tremendous success thus far. Malone and Jenkins have their respective teams 1-2 in the Western Conference standings, but they were title contenders heading into the new campaign; Green and Brown have brought stability to their ascending teams, who happen to be 3-4 in the Western standings.

Very nice, but Mazzulla and Vaughn are 1-2 in the East, and for these gentlemen, their rise to the top has a much more interesting story attached to it.

How Did the Celtics Get Here?

Granted, Boston (33-12 SU, 25-19-1 ATS) was at or near the top of the NBA title odds during the offseason – until Udoka was suspended for improper conduct with a team employee. Udoka was fourth in last year’s COY voting and a big reason why the Celtics made the NBA Finals.

Mazzulla, formerly the starting point guard at West Virginia and head coach at Fairmont State, joined Boston’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2019 when Brad Stevens (now their president of basketball operations) was still in charge. The transition from Stevens to Udoka went even better than expected; the same can definitely be said for Mazzulla in his new role.

A coach is only as good as his players, of course. The Celtics are the NBA’s alpha team right now, with the best record in the league and the best point differential at plus-6.5. And they’ve got one of this year’s leading MVP candidates in Jayson Tatum (plus-5.8 BPM at Basketball Reference), whose +450 odds are both way too short and a good indication that voters will be kind to all things Boston.

Did Jacque Vaughn Save the Nets?

That’s the narrative coming out of Brooklyn, where the Nets (27-15 SU, 19-21-2 ATS) seem to have gotten their ducks in a row after consciously uncoupling from head coach Steve Nash on November 1. Don’t blame Nash, though – he was sixth in last year’s COY voting.

Not that Vaughn hasn’t done an excellent job. He was quickly promoted from interim to full head coach on November 9, having gained the ear of his players; still, Brooklyn’s recent success has more to do with their run of good health, with their Big Three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons finally together and thriving.

Or at least they were until Durant (plus-7.0 BPM) messed up his knee last week. He’s expected to sit out the next month recovering from a sprained right MCL, and might even sit out longer with the All-Star Game coming up on February 19.

This is where things probably fall apart for Vaughn and the Nets. If Vaughn can somehow keep this ship afloat while Durant is out, he’ll vault to No. 1 on the COY list. That will be a tall task, though, given the physical and emotional frailty that both Irving (plus-2.4 BPM) and Simmons (plus-1.2 BPM) have demonstrated in recent years.

Coach of the Year Pick

This is why we’re sticking with Mazzulla for our basketball picks at the best Massachusetts betting sites.

Really, any of these candidates would be worthy COY recipients, and you can make a case for outsiders like Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle (+1400). But for now, Boston is the center of the NBA universe, so bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: Joe Mazzulla To Win COY (+200) at Bovada

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.