By now, you have heard that the Boston Celtics suspended its head coach Ime Udoka for the 2022/23 season. Speculation was rampant as to the reasons why before the Celtics announced the team’s decision. “The Boston Celtics announced that the team has suspended Head Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violations of team policies. A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date. The suspension takes effect immediately.”
Before the Celtics announcement, The Athletic reporter Shams Charania tweeted that Udoka was involved in “an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff. It’s been deemed a violation of the franchise’s code of conduct”. According to Charania, the franchise became aware of the relationship in July but did not get involved until Udoka allegedly made “unwanted comments” to the woman in the relationship.
For days, Twitter sleuths speculated and wrongfully identified almost every female Celtic employee as the woman involved with Udoka. Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens spoke with reporters to discuss their decision. “This felt right, but there are no clear guidelines for any of this,” Grousbeck said. “This is really a conscious, gut feel, and being here for 20 years, I’m responsible for the decision, ultimately.” The Celtics did not guarantee Udoka a job once his suspension ends following the 2023/24 season.
On Monday, the N.B.A.’s Media Day, Celtics players confirmed they were as shell-shocked as anyone and in the dark like all of us as to what really happened. Jayson Tatum, a team leader, and leading scorer, said, “There wasn’t any more information that we found out than the things you guys heard,” Tatum said. “It’s hard for me to answer if things were handled the right way or if they weren’t because, I guess for a lot of reasons, I don’t know all the details. I just don’t know.” Veteran player Jaylen Brown said, “I think I was overall shocked by what was going on, a little confused, but a lot of the information wasn’t being shared with us or members of the team, so you can’t really comment on it,” he said. Tatum and Brown said they have not spoken with Udoka since his suspension.
Adding fuel to a story that doesn’t need it is Udoka’s long-term engagement to beloved actress Nia Long. Long and their young son recently relocated to the Boston area to live with Udoka. The two were said to be house hunting at the time the scandal hit. Long through her press agent, released a statement thanking family, friends, and fans for their support. “The outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and the community during this difficult time means so much to me,” Long said. “I ask that my privacy be respected as I process the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and will continue to focus on my children,” Long added.
Udoka released his statement to ESPN’s Malika Andrews, saying, “I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down. I am 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.” Udoka, 45, the uber-talented coach whose selection as Celtics head coach was heralded as a massive win for a man that showed steely determination and willed himself into the N.B.A. as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. There are stories of how he didn’t attend his high school prom so he could hoop instead, and he was a player who showed discipline and constantly worked on his game.
Udoka’s N.B.A. future is uncertain, as well as the effects of his actions and absence on a team poised for another run at the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.
Joe Mazzula, an assistant coach under Udoka, will serve as the interim head coach for the Celtics.