Celtics Coach Testifies with Bold Shirt Proclaiming ‘But First … Let Me Thank God’

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The Boston Celtics coach, who has been open about his faith, took another bold stance when his team won the NBA Championship Monday night. During post-game interviews, he wore a faith-themed T-shirt and told one interviewer, “God put us here for a reason.” Second-year head coach Joseph Mazzulla helped lead the Celtics to a 106-88 victory over Dallas in a game that clinched the franchise’s 18th NBA title but its first in 16 years. In doing so, he became the youngest coach since 1970 — he’s 35 — to win a ring. 

Mazzulla’s strong faith in Christ has often led to viral moments, such as when he was asked last season if he had met the British royal family when Prince William attended a game. Mazzulla responded, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? I’m only familiar with one royal family.”

On Monday, Mazzulla wore a white T-shirt in post-game interviews that will likely go viral. The front of it read in large all-capital letters: “BUT FIRST … LET ME THANK GOD.” On Tuesday morning, lookalike shirts were already being sold on clothing websites.  

Mazzulla told NBA TV he shared a faith-filled message with Celtics star Jason Tatum before the game. 

“I told him, ‘Have faith.’ God put us here for a reason. We’ve all been through stuff. Obviously, the circumstances that we got the job under were not great,” Mazzulla said, referencing his hiring as head coach when his predecessor, Ime Udoka, was suspended for violating team policies.  

“But you know, we are exactly where we’re supposed to be. And God always has us where we’re at. And you’ve just got to be patient, take your time, and use all the pain and all the stuff that you’ve been through in life for the next opportunity,” Mazzulla said. 

“If you spend so much time worrying about that opportunity, and you miss the lessons that we learned from the past — we just had to stick together and use those things for that. I always told him, I said, ‘Listen, we might not win this year. But at the end of the day, are we heading to the process? Do we have our faith? Are we able to rely on that? And are we exactly where we’re supposed to be? And are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing? That’s the most important thing.”

Mazzulla remained humbled during his post-game press conferences, thanking the coaches who preceded him.

“The foundation that they built with these guys when they were young, the foundation of what we have, is one of the reasons why we’re here today,” he said. “… Just because we won this doesn’t mean what the people have done before us isn’t just as important.”

In 2023, he told the Sports Spectrum podcast that he tries to model his leadership style after Jesus.

“The part of Him that I kind of resonate the most with is His leadership style and who He was just as a person,” Mazzulla said in 2023. “… Regardless of anything else, there’s a reason why 2,023 years later, there are still people talking about Him. He did something right,” Mazzulla said on the podcast. “Just learning from those leadership values is fun.”

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Mike Lawrie/Staff

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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