The Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season for violating team policies, the team announced Thursday night, with no guarantees that he will return.
The Celtics made the announcement at 9:21 p.m. Thursday, but it didn’t reveal much clarity.
The Celtics’ statement reads: “The Boston Celtics announced today that the team has suspended Head Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violating team policies. A decision regarding his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date.The suspension is effective immediately.
First reported late Wednesday night, Udoka is suspended after having an inappropriate intimate and consensual relationship with a female team staff member, which is considered a violation of the organization’s code of conduct, according to several reports.
Udoka released a statement, published by ESPN, which read: “I want to apologize to our players, our fans, the entire organization and my family for letting them down. I’m sorry to have put the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will make no further comment.
The Celtics did not say in the statement whether they would hold a press conference to discuss Udoka’s suspension. Media day is scheduled for Monday.
Details of how the situation will unfold remain, but on the eve of training camp, news of Udoka’s impending suspension is a stunning development and presents a major hurdle that could derail a Celtics season with big expectations. Udoka, in his first season, guided the Celtics to an impressive midseason turnaround and a run to the NBA Finals. Three months later, the C’s enter this season as favorites to win the NBA championship.
Udoka, 45, first became head coach last year when the Celtics hired him to replace Brad Stevens, who took over as president of basketball operations for C. Udoka. who played seven seasons in the NBA, served as a longtime assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich and held two other assistant positions before joining the C’s. After a rocky start to his first season, the Celtics bought Udoka as they transformed into the best defense in the NBA, and players enthusiastically praised him.
“When you have a coach who is willing to hold you accountable, and not just you, but everyone on the team equally, that’s how you know you have the makings of a great coach. trying to go somewhere special,” Marcus Smart said. in the NBA Finals last June.
The Celtics are expected to make assistant coach Joe Mazzulla interim coach in Udoka’s absence, according to multiple reports. Mazzulla, 34, is a Rhode Island native who played for Bishop Hendriken High School before playing college basketball in West Virginia, but he doesn’t have much coaching experience. Mazzulla’s only head coaching job came at Fairmont State, a Division 2 school in West Virginia where he coached for two seasons before Stevens hired him as an assistant in 2019.
Still, Mazzulla is highly respected within the Celtics organization. When Udoka was hired last year, Mazzulla was the only surviving member of Stevens’ staff to remain as an assistant. Mazzulla coached the Celtics’ summer league team in 2021 and was also interviewed for the Utah Jazz opener this summer – before fellow Celtics assistant Will Hardy got the job – even if he is not a front bench assistant with the C’s.
“I love Joe,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said in June. “I think just being around him… you can tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft. He’s gotten so much more competent, more detailed, just vocal. More comfortable in his coaching role. You saw growth in its first year.
“He’s helped me a lot as a player and as a person. I can’t say enough good things about Joe. Everyone appreciates him, what he brings to this team. I’m happy let us have it.
After a promising offseason that included the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon, everything is turned upside down as the C’s head to camp. Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL in his left knee, and Rob Williams will miss the start of the season for left knee surgery. Now, Udoka’s suspension has created great uncertainty over the Celtics’ future.
The Celtics open training camp on Tuesday.