The Boston Celtics have suspended Im Udoka for a year, banning the coach who led them to the NBA Finals last spring for the entire 2022-23 season, after two people with knowledge of the matter said a member of the organization. Said to have an inappropriate relationship with. institution
He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not released that detail publicly. In a statement issued Thursday night after a day of wrangling over the terms of the punishment, the Celtics said Udoka violated team policies and left open the possibility of an extended separation.
“A decision on his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the team said.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim coach, a person who spoke to The AP said. The defending Eastern Conference champions will hold a media day on Monday and open training camp on Tuesday in preparation for the Oct. 18 season opener.
In a statement published by ESPN, Udoka “apologized to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting him down.”
“I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision,” he said. “Out of respect for everyone involved, I will not comment further.”
A longtime assistant in his first NBA head coaching job, Udoka led Boston to a 51-31 record last season – going 26-6 in the final 32 games. The Celtics defeated Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami in the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
The turn of events stunned the NBA and shook a team that was the favorite to contend for a championship this season. It would be an unprecedented 18th title for the franchise.
But in Boston, the story is reminiscent of a citywide shakeup in 2020, when Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for his role in a sign-theft scandal with the Houston Astros at his previous job. Instead, the sides diverged.
After finishing last under Ron Roenick in a pandemic-shortened season, Cora was rehired a year later and welcomed back.
It’s unclear if Udoka and the Celtics would be eager to reunite.
Udoka, 45, spent most of his NBA career with San Antonio before joining Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff as an assistant. Udoka was on the Spurs’ staff from 2012 to 2019, winning it all in ’14, and quickly found his way onto the short list for open head coaching jobs.
He spent the 2019–20 season in Philadelphia and the 2020–21 season in Brooklyn before the Celtics hired him in June 2021 as the successor to Brad Stevens — who moved to the front office. In Year 1, Udoka finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting and led the Celtics to within two championship wins.
“The future is bright and we’re just getting started,” Udoka said after the NBA Finals.
The bombshell on the eve of training camp is the latest twist in what was supposed to be a promising season for the NBA’s most decorated franchise.
The Celtics bolstered their runner-up roster by acquiring guard Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from Indiana, then added sharpshooting veteran forward Danilo Gallinari as a free agent. But last month, Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee and will be lost for the upcoming season.
Center Robert Williams, a key part of Boston’s defensive scheme who went through injuries during last season’s playoffs, is still dealing with knee pain and is expected to miss the start of the season.
The Celtics have also been mentioned in speculation about a new home for Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star who requested — and then backed out — of a trade, although negotiations came to nothing, but he has expressed concern over Boston’s commitment to young star Jaylen Brown. Raised questions.
It’s also the second major disciplinary situation in the NBA in as many weeks: Commissioner Adam Silver last week suspended Robert Sarver — owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — for a year and fined him $10 million after an investigation showed up. Disruptive behavior in the workplace, including abusive and racist language. Sarver said Wednesday that he wants to sell his teams.
Mazzulla interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job this summer, which eventually went to Will Hardy — another of Udoka’s assistants in Boston last season.
Mazzulla’s only previous experience as a head coach is two years at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia, where he went 43-17 and made the NCAA Tournament in his second season. A New Englander originally from Rhode Island, Mazzulla played at West Virginia, was an assistant for the Celtics’ G League team before taking over at Fairmont State, and was then rehired by the Celtics in June 2019 to become part of Stevens’ staff.
Mazzulla’s last game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game with the Celtics will attract a bit more attention: Boston will host longtime rival Philadelphia in the opener, when they will pay a year-long tribute to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.