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Celtics Coach’s Magic Touch Propels West Virginia to Shocking Victory over Kentucky in 2010 Elite 8

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John Calipari saw Celtics’ lead man Joe Mazzulla’s coaching chops during his time at West Virginia.

Joe Mazzulla and the Boston Celtics are alone at the top of the NBA standings. With the way the season is looking, the Celtics have a good shot at remaining number one.

Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari and his former star John Wall recently revisited a memorable game from 2010. In that game, Mazzulla, then a player for the West Virginia Mountaineers, led his team to a stunning upset victory over the Wildcats in the East Regional final.

Calipari and Wall recently broke down Mazzulla’s performance and what they saw from the future head coach at the time, via the DraftKings Point Game podcast with CJ Toledano.

Revisiting 2010 against West Virginia

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla reacts during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

“That game we played a really good team the game before and beat them really good, but we missed almost every three and then we come in the next game they go 1-3-1 zone and we’re like 1-for-16, well you’re going to lose on that,” Calipari said. “West Virginia played a heck of a game. I think if we get by that one John it would have been kind of scary because I think most teams wouldn’t have tied to play a 1-3-1.”

“I think Coach Huggins did a great job with that one because he started off in man and probably after the first two, three minutes he said nah I can’t do this no more and we just went like 0-for-20 to start,” Wall said. “Like I watched the game the other day we started off like 0-for-20. I’m like this is BS,” said Wall.

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Both agreed that if it was a seven-game series the Wildcats would’ve come out on top.

Toledano then asked Calipari if he remembered the player who had the idea to play the 1-3-1, and the Wildcats coach responded that it was the now C’s coach Joe Mazzulla.

Calipari recalled their strategy against Mazzulla, noting his low three-point shooting percentage. However, Mazzulla, along with Devin Ebanks rose to the occasion hitting multiple three-pointers.

At halftime, the Mountaineers held a narrow 28-26 lead in what proved to be one of the most unconventional 20-minute stretches of shooting in tournament history. They managed to convert eight of their 15 attempted 3-pointers, but remarkably, they missed all 16 of their 2-point attempts.

Mazzulla was clutch, sinking five of 11 shots before fouling out late in the game. While Kentucky boasted multiple lottery picks, West Virginia relied on Mazzulla, who also showed flashes of coaching brilliance.

After their victory over Kentucky, WVU ultimately fell to Duke in the Final Four. Duke went on to win the championship by defeating a Butler team led by Gordon Hayward. Notably, Duke’s championship-winning team featured their current head coach, Jon Scheyer, as a player.

Joe Mazzulla and the Celtics now have the most talented team in the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era, and if everything falls into place, raising banner 18 won’t just be a dream.

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About the Author

Nathan Yasis is a writer for ClutchPoints.

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