Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla sidelined just before tip with 'eye irritation'

Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla missed Tuesday's game against the Houston Rockets with what the team described as "eye irritation."

The Celtics made the announcement minutes before tipoff, and assistant Damon Stoudamire took the floor as Boston's head coach in his absence.

Mazzulla addressed reporters earlier Tuesday in his pregame news conference, apparently intent at that point on coaching against the Rockets. Video from the news conference shows Mazzulla squinting and rubbing his right eye.

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Whatever was bothering him apparently became too much to tolerate for a full game.

The Celtics beat the Rockets, 126-102. After the game, Stoudamire said he found out he was going to act as head coach around 10 minutes before tipoff. The extent of Mazzulla's injury remained unclear.

Mazzulla took over as head coach in September when the Celtics suspended Ime Udoka for the entire season, citing violations of the team's code of conduct. He has led the Celtics to the NBA's best record at 24-10. Boston entered Tuesday fresh off a Christmas Day victory over the Eastern Conference rival Milwaukee Bucks.

Despite the early success, the Celtics don't plan to remove his interim tag during the regular season, according to a Boston Globe report. It wasn't clear on Tuesday if Mazzulla would miss more time.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 28: Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla looks on during the first half at TD Garden on October 28, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Joe Mazzulla was visibly irritated during his pregame news conference, and the Celtics ruled him out in the minutes before tipoff. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)