Unpacking Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla’s Obsession With The Town

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla and 'The Town.'

Not only does Mazzulla reportedly watch the 2010 Ben Affleck heist flick four times a week, he’s turned it into a mindset of sorts for his team. 

In the 19th century, when labor organizers fought for the eight-hour workday, they adopted the slogan, “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” Catchy! On behalf of Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, may we suggest: “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours and 16 minutes for watching The Town.” 

As was first reported in January, Mazzulla screens the 2010 Ben Affleck crime drama The Town, which has a runtime of two hours and four minutes, four times a week. When asked how that relates to the Celtics, he said that it’s “just a Boston mindset.” 

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If you need a refresher, The Town is about a gang of childhood friends and career criminals from Charlestown. The movie has it all: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively competing over who can pronounce the fewest r’s; bank heists undertaken by a bunch of guys in nun disguises; Jon Hamm playing a hardass FBI agent; the best getaway scene featuring the humble MBTA; and a genuinely moving exploration of whether you can ever truly escape the confines of the world that created you. Not exactly a movie easily mapped onto the NBA—but not not, either.

When news of his The Town obsession first emerged, Mazzulla was the interim head coach, following head coach Ime Udoka’s suspension for inappropriate behavior. In February, Mazzulla was permanently installed in the job—at which point he was seemingly free to fully unleash his The Town agenda onto the team. 

On May 14th, at the press conference following the team’s game seven win, he wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with the quote, “Whose car we gonna take?”

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It’s perhaps the most beloved line from an improbably beloved film—something that Jeremy Renner’s character says to Ben Affleck’s character in response to Affleck asking the sort of favor you reserve for your very best friends: “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can’t ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Nice guys!

NESN.com spoke to Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, who explained Mazzulla’s The Town-maxxing had taken hold of the entire team, at least in regards to that specific quote. 

“I think it’s ‘Whose car are we taking?’ I think that’s the saying,” Brogdon told NESN. “And it’s basically just ride or die for your guys, the guys you’re on the court with, the guys you’re competing with. It’s having the mentality: it doesn’t matter what we’re going to get into, we’re going to do it together.”

But why is Mazzulla so obsessed? It may just be that he’s squarely in the movie’s demographic. If Mazzulla, who’s 34, first saw the film when it was released, he would’ve been around 21 years old—primo “put a poster of The Town up in your off-campus apartment” age. Also, the movie’s sick. Maybe not “watch it four times a week” sick, but excellent nonetheless—one of the finest products of the Ben Affleck Boston Movie Industrial Complex. 

As far as using the slogan “whose car we gonna take?” … well, Jeremy Renner’s character doesn’t meet what we’d call a happy end. Boston might be on top now, but it’s unclear how effective that quote will be in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. Who, I can only assume, are getting pumped up with biweekly screenings of 2006’s Miami Vice and adopting the “I’m a fiend for mojitos” mindset.

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