Updated: Sep 28
Anchor Staff Writer
The Boston Celtics, on Thursday, announced Head Coach Ime Udoka is suspended for the entire upcoming 2022-23 season. This suspension may come as a surprise for many fans initially, especially after Udoka led the team to an NBA Finals appearance in only his first season at the helm. However, the details of the case, what little we have at this point, unveil a possibly sinister story behind this suspension – one that goes far deeper than originally thought.
The official ruling states that Udoka was suspended for “violations of team policies.” However, ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that, “Udoka is likely facing a suspension for the entire 2022-23 season for his role in a consensual relationship with a female staff member, sources tell ESPN.”
Team Owner Wyc Grousbeck held a press conference along with former head coach and current President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens to address the matter on Friday.
“Obviously a difficult time to be speaking to you all. It’s a time of concern, reflection, and action. We have strong values at the Celtics and we are doing our very best to uphold them here,” Grousbeck said in his opening statement. “As you know, Ime Udoka has been suspended for the upcoming season for breaking team rules. For privacy reasons, I won’t be able to offer you many additional facts or circumstances around what occurred and why the suspension is in place…its privacy reasons for the people involved, [that’s] the concern….I can say that as soon as we learned there was a potential situation, we immediately brought in a respected law firm to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation, and they took some time, and we actually concluded that investigation with a report two days ago.”
Now, clearly this is a situation that will cause massive speculation amongst the media and fanbase. One negative result of this speculation was many female staff members of the team being “discussed” on social media sites such as Twitter, with many trying to conclude which staff member had the relationship with Udoka.
Grousbeck also addressed this issue during the press conference, saying, “It’s unfortunate also that female Staff Members of the Celtics have been dragged into the public eye, unwillingly and inappropriately, and we take a strong stand against that, and just regret it for them. It’s really unfortunate and not necessary.”
Grousbeck went on to discuss coach Udoka’s acceptance of the situation and suspension. He added that Stevens and himself both already met with the players, noting that the team was both “very concerned,” but also had “energy, focus, commitment and drive to accomplish great things hopefully this season.”
Stevens on the other hand seemed visibly shaken by the situation. Video of the press conference shows the president of basketball operations becoming visibly emotional when discussing the women affected by this situation.
“I thought, you know we have a lot of talented women in our organization, and I thought yesterday was really hard on them,” Stevens said while fighting back tears throughout his statement. “You know, nobody can control rampant Twitter speculation, and rampant ..., but I do think we as an organization have a responsibility to make sure we’re there to support them now, because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that.”
As the Celtics continue to look into this matter, Assistant Coach Joe Mazzulla has been named interim head coach for the foreseeable future. Mazzulla is a Rhode Island native, having attended Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick where he was an athletic standout and three time state champion. He was even inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2018. Mazzulla also attended West Virginia college, where he helped the team win an NIT tournament as a freshman, and secure an upset win over Duke in the NCAA tournament the following year. He began his coaching career in 2011, first in Division II of the NCAA with Glenville State, then Fairmont State, before landing an assistant coaching job with the Boston Celtics’ G-league affiliate team, the then-Maine Red Claws.
After returning to Fairmont State for two years, Mazzulla was hired for the Celtics’ coaching staff by Stevens, the head coach at the time. Many within the organization have already given high praises to Mazzulla, such as Grousbeck, Stevens and even Celtics player Jayson Tatum.
During last year’s NBA Finals run, Tatum expressed his appreciation for Mazzulla, saying, “I love Joe, I think just being around him for the last, I think this is his second or third year, you could tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft. He’s gotten so much more knowledgeable, more detailed, more vocal, and more comfortable in his role as a coach. You’ve seen a growth from his first year…he’s helped me out tremendously as a player and as a person, I can’t say enough good things about Joe. Everybody appreciates what he brings to this team, and I’m glad that we have him.”