The Boston Celtics have announced what’s been speculated for the last 24 hours – head coach Ime Udoka has been suspended for the 2022-23 NBA season. Lead assistant Joe Mazzulla will act as interim head coach in the meantime.
Reports have come out that Udoka was involved in an intimate but consensual relationship with a team staffer who has not been named or identified. This is a punishment from the Boston Celtics organization and not the NBA itself as its a violation of the team’s policy.
Ime Udoka also released a statement upon the official announcement’s release:
NEW: Statement from Celtics coach Ime Udoka pic.twitter.com/MFutFx7c3l— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 23, 2022
The wording of Udoka’s statement doesn’t seem to contradict the reporting about the nature of the suspension, so do with that information what you will. Per the Celtics’ report, the team will make a decision about his future “at a later date,” which suggests that the suspension may not be the end of this saga.
This decision has massive ramifications on the organization. Ime Udoka is three months removed from a rookie coaching campaign that took the Celtics from 11th in the East all the way to the NBA Finals, where the Celtics were two wins away from Banner 18. Some may argue that these kinds of HR violations happen all the time in sports organizations, but the Celtics making a stand to uphold their policies is a step in the right direction after we’ve seen in recent years what happens when organizations sweep things under the rug (Suns, Clippers, Mavs).
With Joe Mazzulla set to step in, the Celtics are already starting the season at a disadvantage from a preparation standpoint. Additionally, the bench will need the presence of a new lead assistant. Perhaps the Celtics will continue promoting upward, but it also wouldn’t be inappropriate to search for an assistant coach with previous head coach experience. Frank Vogel, a coach with ties to the Celtics and is known for his defensive prowess, wouldn’t be a bad idea to add to the bench.
Mazzulla’s never even been in the front row of the Celtics bench during games, and now he’s in charge of leading the franchise during one of its most turbulent periods ever (as far as off-court happenings go). Getting a veteran coach like Vogel or even Mike D’Antoni might not be the worst idea.
If the Celtics, however, are committed to Mazzulla and have full faith in him, perhaps they’ll wait and see how the 34-year-old handles these weighty responsibilities. With the Celtics announcing that they’ll deal with Udoka’s long-term fate “at a later date,” perhaps one factor will be how Mazzulla performs and if they’ll even want to bring Udoka back with all of the off-court distractions that will inevitably surround him.
The Celtics open the season with Media Day on Monday, September 26th at 12 p.m. ET. Interim Head Coach Joe Mazzulla as well as Brad Stevens and all of the players will have plenty to talk about when the time comes.