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Where Are They Now?: Former Hendricken Great Joe Mazzulla Chases Coaching Dream

Monday, July 02, 2012

 

Joe Mazzulla is one of the greatest basketball players ever to come out of the state of Rhode Island.

The Johnston native was a prep star at Bishop Hendricken High School, leading the Hawks to three straight state championships from 2004-06.

He averaged 24 points per game in his career at Hendricken, and put up 12 rebounds, five assists, and three steals as a senior to help lead the Hawks to a perfect 21-0 record.

Mazzulla dropped 39 points in the state championship game that season, and was named the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and senior.

Johnston's Joe Mazzulla had a memorable playing career at West Virginia. (WVU Sports Communications)

He then went on to play for famed coach Bob Huggins at West Virginia University, helping lead the Mountaineers to the 2010 Final Four. Mazzulla had a memorable career in Morgantown, first as a key reserve off the bench and then as the starting point guard as a junior and senior.

The 6-2 guard averaged  7.7 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds as a senior. If not for a shoulder injury that derailed him for the entire 2008-09 season and much of 2009-10, Mazzulla might have had a much more storied career at West Virginia.

He played the entire 2009-10 season despite being unable to shoot free throws right-handed (he's a natural lefty), and having, as his coach Bob Huggins put it to the New York Times, "no chance to shoot a jump shot."

Today, Mazzulla coaches at NCAA Division III Glenville State College in West Virginia. We caught up with him recently to talk about his past, present, and future in basketball.


GO LOCAL: When did you realize that you wanted to coach?

MAZZULLA: I think since my redshirt year [2008-09, when Mazzulla suffered season-ending shoulder injury]. Coach Huggins kind of let me act as an assistant coach that season, and it really opened my eyes to the other side of the game. When I had the opportunity to get my Master's in coaching my fifth year, that's when I really started to feel like this was something I wanted to do long-term.

GL: Did you ever think about playing professionally?

MAZZULLA: I did. I knew that there were some opportunities in Europe, but I didn't know where I was going to go or what type of situation it might be. I felt like playing was just a short-term career path. Long-term, I knew that my career was going to be in coaching, without a doubt. So, i just kind of made the sacrifice for my long-term career. I think it's going to help me in the future, to get a head start on my career.

GL: Why Glenville State?

MAZZULLA: Coach Huggins had some connections, and he was able to help me. He knew that I really wanted to coach. I'm just trying to get as much experience as I can right now and this is a great place to do that.

GL: Do you use anything that [Bishop Hendricken head coach Jamal] Gomes taught you with your players today?

MAZZULLA: Oh, absolutely. Coach Gomes was great at communicating with people, in a one-on-one setting, in individual meetings. He was great at getting to know players better and building relationships with them, and that's something I try to use with my players right now.

GL: What is your long-term career goal?

MAZZULLA: I want to be a coach…I don't where that is going to be, whether it's in college or at the NBA level. Last summer, I was able to get some valuable experience in taking a team of professionals to China and coaching against the Chinese Olympic team, the Dominican Republic Olympic team, and the Bulgarian Olympic team. That was a great experience for me. I don't really know where I want to coach right now, but I'm just working hard and trying to gain as much experience as I can.

(Note: Mazzulla's team was made up of mostly NBA Development League players, including former Memphis guard Will Coleman and Texas Tech guard Martin Zeno).

GL: What do you like most about coaching?

MAZZULLA: My favorite part would have to be seeing the players improve, having to work with them as a coach and continue to make adjustments. I also love the X's and O's, sitting in the film room and watching game tape. I love breaking down the game.

GL: When you think back on your playing days in Rhode Island, what comes to mind?

MAZZULLA: I think just the people in the area, and how special it was to play there.

GL: What was your favorite moment while at Hendricken?

MAZZULLA: I think, obviously, the first state championship that we won. My freshman year we were kind of underachievers, but then we put things together sophomore year and won the [state title]. My entire time there was great. I think being out of there for so long, it makes you realize how great the people were, my coaches were. Looking back on it now, it was just a really special time.

 

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