Celtics suspend coach Udoka for 2022-23 season after ‘violations of team policies’


The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season, effective immediately, and with no guarantee that he will return with the franchise.

The Celtics said Thursday night that Udoka was suspended for « violation of team policies. » Earlier Thursday, two people with knowledge of the matter said Udoka was being disciplined for having an inappropriate relationship with a member of the organization. These people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not revealed this detail publicly.

« A decision regarding his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date, » the Celtics said.

Udoka, in a statement carried by ESPN, apologized but did not provide details.

« I want to apologize to our players, our fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down. I’m sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment, » he said.

One of the people who spoke to the AP said Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would take over on an interim basis.

CBC Sports has not independently confirmed the information.

Mazzulla was interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job this summer, a job that eventually went to Will Hardy, another Udoka assistant in Boston last season. Udoka’s other assistant coaches were Damon Stoudemire, Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles and Tony Dobbins.

Brilliant 1st season with the Celtics

Udoka had a stellar first season with the Celtics, finishing the regular season 51-31 — 26-6 in the final 32 games — and leading Boston past Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami on their way to the NBA Finals. The Celtics lost the title streak to the Golden State Warriors in six games

Losing Udoka is going to be a blow to a team that is widely considered one of the favorites to challenge for an NBA title this season.

The developments recall the upheaval across town in 2020 when Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for his role in a sign-stealing scandal at his previous job, with the Astros. of Houston. Instead, the sides parted ways.

The Celtics said a decision regarding Udoka’s future with the franchise beyond the upcoming season will be made at a later date. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After one last stint under Ron Roenicke in the pandemic-shortened season, Cora was rehired a year later and welcomed back.

It is very difficult to know if Udoka will follow this path.

Udoka, 45, spent most of his NBA playing career in San Antonio, then continued his time with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, joining his team as an assistant. Udoka was on the Spurs staff from 2012 to 2019, and it didn’t take long for him to become one of the names that tended to appear on the shortlist of candidates when the job openings were made. head coach.

Successor to Brad Stevens

He spent the 2019-20 season in Philadelphia, the 2020-21 season in Brooklyn, then the Celtics hired him in June 2021 as the successor to Brad Stevens – who held a front-office role.

« The future is bright and we’re just getting started, » Udoka said after the NBA Finals.

Maybe not.

The Celtics will host a media day, a session where coaches, players and executives meet with reporters, on Monday and open training camp on Tuesday. And the absence of Udoka – who was fourth in the NBA Coach of the Year voting last season – will eclipse what was meant to be the start of a season of high expectations.

It also adds to a series of major problems the club face at the start of training.

Boston made big moves early in the offseason, acquiring Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from Indiana to bolster an already strong backcourt, then adding veteran forward Danilo Gallinari as a free agent.

But last month, Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee and will be out of action for the upcoming season. Center Robert Williams, a major part of Boston’s defensive system who played with knee issues in last season’s playoffs, is still struggling with knee issues and is unlikely to be ready to start this season.

The Celtics were also mentioned prominently in trade speculation surrounding Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star who wanted to be moved elsewhere by the Nets – then withdrew that request after several weeks. It would have taken a sizable set of players, likely including Jaylen Brown, to land Durant, and the trade talk likely left some wondering about their future in Boston.

Mazzulla’s only previous experience as a head coach is a two-year stint at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia, where he went 43-17 and made the NCAA Tournament in his second season. Mazzulla – a New England native of Rhode Island – played his college basketball in West Virginia, was an assistant for the Celtics’ G League team before taking over at Fairmont State, then was re-hired by the Celtics in June 2019 to be part of Stevens’ staff.

Mazzulla’s last game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game with the Celtics will be a little better watched and followed – against Philadelphia, Boston, on October 18 in the first game of the new NBA season.

This is the second major disciplinary situation in as many weeks in the NBA, following Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision last week to suspend Robert Sarver – the owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury – for a year. and to fine him $10 million after an investigation. showed his pattern of disturbing behavior in the workplace, including abusive and racist language. Sarver said Wednesday that he intends to sell his teams.

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