The Celtics held a press conference Friday morning to address the suspension handed down to coach Ime Udoka that will keep him out of the entire 2022–23 season. The suspension stems from his reported involvement in an “improper” relationship with a female member of the team’s staff.
After announcing the discipline Thursday night, Celtics governor Wyc Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens met with reporters to discuss the decision to suspend Udoka, revealing that the team enlisted a law firm to conduct an impartial investigation into the 45-year-old’s actions. Grousbeck said the investigation began in the summer and concluded Wednesday, at which point he made the final decision on the severity of the discipline.
“This felt right, but there’s no clear guidelines for any of this,” Grousbeck said of the length of the suspension. “This is really a conscious, gut feel and being here 20 years, I’m responsible for the decision, ultimately.”
Citing privacy concerns, Grousbeck did not expand upon the details of the situation involving Udoka, but he did say the coach committed “a couple of” violations of team policy and will be dealt a “significant financial penalty.” He also said nobody else in the organization is facing punishment as a result of the investigation.
The Celtics released a statement Thursday night, announcing Udoka received a yearlong suspension for “violations of team policies,” effective immediately. Reports of impending discipline for Boston’s coach first surfaced Wednesday night when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the organization had been contemplating a “significant suspension” for Udoka for an “unspecified violation of organizational guidelines.” Later that night, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Udoka violated the team’s code of conduct by engaging in an “improper intimate and consensual relationship” with a female staffer.
The organization did not expand any further on the details that led to the punishment Thursday, but a later report from Charania shared new information about the circumstances that led to the decision.
According to Charania, members of the Celtics organization became aware of the relationship in July, and Boston’s leadership was led to believe by both Udoka and the woman that the relationship was consensual. But the woman recently said Udoka made unwanted comments toward her, prompting the team to launch a set of internal interviews, per Charania.
Grousbeck and Stevens did not confirm or deny information from The Athletic’s report. However, both expressed their support for the women within the Celtics organization, after unsubstantiated rumors about the identity of the woman involved with Udoka emerged on social media this week.
“We have a lot of talented women in our organization. I thought yesterday was really hard on them,” Stevens said. “Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bulls---, but I do think that 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.”
In a statement shared on Twitter by ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Udoka issued an apology to Celtics players, the organization and fans for his actions.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said Thursday. “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.”
The Celtics noted in the suspension announcement and confirmed again Friday that a decision will be made about Udoka’s future with the club beyond the upcoming season “at a later date.” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reports there were “no guarantees made to Udoka” in his conversations with the team about being brought back after the suspension.
Boston also shared at the press conference that assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim head coach, which was first reported by Wojnarowski on Thursday.
“It’s not easy timing for him or the rest of the staff, but he’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person. I believe strongly in him in his ability to lead people, his ability to galvanize the room,” Stevens said, per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. “This will be an unbelievable challenge, but I’m really confident in the team and coaching staff that’s gonna take the court on Tuesday.”
Mazzulla faces a quick turnaround as Boston prepares to open training camp Sept. 27 before beginning the 2022–23 campaign Oct. 18 at home against the 76ers.
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