Wow. Just wow. Pick your list of descriptors for this situation. Unprecedented. Messy. Confusing. Frustrating. Weird. Sad. They all apply. With an added caveat that we still don’t have a ton of details and we may never know the full story behind these recent events involving Ime Udoka and the reported unnamed staff worker.
Let’s start with the personal side of things because that’s more important than the game (regardless of how many millions of dollars that game generates). There are people’s lives and livelihoods that are being impacted by this mess. I implore everyone to respect people’s privacy and resist the urge to spread speculation about people in the Celtics organization. I get that the curiosity factor is very high here, but we all need to remember that there are many people in the Celtics organization, most of which probably had nothing at all to do with this situation. Put another way, how would you like it if someone was posting pictures of you or your family member on the internet theorizing about your private lives?
As for Udoka, it appears that he’s made some pretty big mistakes, which he has issued a public apology for. It seems like most of the news we’ve heard about this has come from the Celtics side of things, and it is worth noting that we have yet to hear anything of detail from Udoka’s side. However, the reports don’t seem great. The Celtics reportedly gave him several warnings and ultimately felt compelled to suspend him for a full season. A team with title hopes does not take such actions lightly. That’s not to say that I fully trust that the team made all the right moves here either. We just don’t know enough about the situation to understand who acted right, wrong, or just the best they could with the cards they were dealt.
The impacts of this situation are far reaching and unfortunate. As I mentioned already, there’s the personal lives of everyone in the Celtics front office, in particular the female staffers, now being put under a public microscope that they don’t deserve. Then there’s the players and coaching staff that are now without their head coach for the coming season, and quite possibly beyond that (I don’t know how you come back from this on this team). Joe Mazzulla goes from “promising future head coaching candidate” to “first timer taking over title contending team” in the blink of an eye.
From a basketball perspective, this takes an odds on title favorite, and handicaps them before they even make it to training camp. Like, if you walked up to an Olympic sprinter right before their race and took away their cleats before they even had a chance to get into the starting blocks.
I’ll be honest. It is going to be a minute before I’m excited about the basketball side of things. That is my passion and my obsession, so I’m sure I’ll come around and move past this. But first I have to find a way to explain to my 11-year-old son (who watches many of the games with me) why our head coach is no longer coaching the team.
Ultimately, this team will go as far as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown take them (as if they needed any additional pressure). We have already gone over the impacts of the Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams injuries. We’ve already debated (endlessly) about what holes still remain on the roster. Now we have to see how the team responds to Mazzulla. So many things have to break in the right direction for a team to win an NBA title. So far, it seems like things are just breaking.
So yeah, this whole situation is very unfortunate for everyone involved, stretching all the way out to the fans of the team. I think it is fair to feel frustrated, confused, sad, or any array of feelings about these events. It may yet take a few more turns as more details are revealed. Not a great way to start a season. But here we are.