WARWICK, R.I. (WHDH) - Before he was the head coach of the Celtics, Joe Mazzulla walked the halls of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island.

After he led the Celtics to their 18th NBA Championship Monday, people who knew Mazzulla are sharing their memories of the then-future coach. 

“My first impression of him was, I said to myself, ‘This young man is special,’” said Mazulla’s high school basketball coach Jamal Gomes. 

Gomes served as the head varsity basketball coach at Hendricken when Mazzulla was a student. 

Speaking with 7NEWS, he said the fierce competitor Mazzulla is now is the same person he was 20 years ago. 

“He was great because he made everybody around him so much better,” Gomes said. 

“I can remember him during games coming up to me during a time out or free throw situation and saying ‘Hey coach, they’re in a matchup zone, I think you want to try this offense. I think we might want to try this.’”

Gomes said such interactions happened on a regular basis. 

“He had that level of intelligence, that level of connection with me as the head coach at the time back when he was in ninth, 10th, and 11th grade,” Gomes said. 

For Gomes, seeing Mazzulla even get to the NBA, let alone win a title, was one of his proudest moments.

“I say there were a few big moments in my life,” he said. “I got married to my wife. I had my two daughters. And then I witnessed Joe Mazzulla as the head coach of the Boston Celtics.”

Gomes said what Mazzulla is doing as a coach at basketball’s highest level is something special. 

He said he and Mazzulla still communicate regularly via text. Every time they talk, Gomes said, his message to Mazzulla is the same — “How proud I am of him and the man that he is and that he had become.” 

Gomes continued, saying he shares “how much I love him and how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to work with him at such a young age.”

Mazzulla took the helm as the Celtics’ interim head coach in September of 2022. The team later solidified his position as head coach, dropping the interim title, in January of 2023. 

In beating the Dallas Mavericks in this year’s NBA Finals, the 35-year-old Mazzulla became the youngest coach since 1970 to win a league title. 

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