BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season, effective immediately, with no guarantee he will be back with the franchise.
The Celtics said Thursday night that Iduka had been suspended for “violations of team policies.” Earlier on Thursday, two people familiar with the matter said Adoka was being sanctioned because of an inappropriate relationship with a member of the organization. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not disclosed that detail publicly.
“A decision on his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the Celtics said.
Udoka, in a statement published by ESPN, apologized but did not elaborate.
“I want to apologize to my players, the 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 not comment further,” he said.
Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzola will take over on an interim basis, one of the people who spoke with the AP said.
Mazzola interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job that summer, a position that eventually went to Will Hardy, another Adoka assistant in Boston. Adoka’s other assistant coaches were Damon Stoudemire, Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles and Tony Dobbins.
Udoka had a stellar first season with the Celtics, finishing the regular season 51-31 — going 26-6 in the last 32 games — and leading Boston to the NBA Finals, beating Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami. Moving forward. The Celtics lost the title series to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Losing Udoka would be a significant blow to a team that is widely considered the favorite to contend for the NBA title this season.
The development is reminiscent of the turmoil in the city before 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 Houston Astros. was Instead, the parties parted ways.
After a last-place finish under Ron Roeneke in a pandemic-shortened season, Cora was rehired a year later and welcomed back.
It is most unclear whether Udoka will follow this path.
Iduka, 45, spent the bulk of his NBA career playing with San Antonio, then continued his time with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich by joining his staff 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 appeared on short lists of candidates when head coaching jobs opened up.
He spent the 2019-20 season in Philadelphia, the 2020-21 season in Brooklyn, and then the Celtics hired him in June 2021 to replace Brad Stevens — who moved into a front office role.
“The future is bright and we’re just getting started,” Udoka said after the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will hold 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 finished fourth in last season’s NBA Coach of the Year balloting — will undercut what was supposed to be a season of high expectations.
This also adds to the major problems the club faces at the start of training.
Boston made some big moves early in the offseason, acquiring Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from Indiana to bolster an already strong backcourt, then adding 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 big part of Boston’s defensive scheme that went through knee problems during last season’s playoffs, is still dealing with knee problems and is not expected to be ready to start this season. .
The Celtics were also featured prominently in trade speculation surrounding Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star who wanted to be moved elsewhere by the Nets — then backed off that demand several weeks later. took It would have taken a significant package of players, possibly including Jaylen Brown, to land Durant, and trade talks would have left some wondering about his 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 native New Englander from Rhode Island — played his college basketball at West Virginia, was an assistant with the Celtics’ G League team before taking over at Fairmont State, and then to the Celtics in June 2019. was hired to be a part of it again. Stevens’ staff.
Mazzola’s final game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game with the Celtics will be a little better watched and attended — against Philadelphia, in Boston, on Oct. 18 in the first game of the new NBA season.
It’s the second major disciplinary action in the NBA in as many weeks, following Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision last week to suspend Robert Sarver — owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — for one year. He was suspended and fined $10 million after an investigation. Demonstrated troubling workplace behavior, including abusive and racist language. Sarwar said Wednesday that he plans to sell his teams.
– Reynolds reported from Miami.
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