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Celtics suspend coach Ime Udoka for 2022-23 season over improper relationship

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka points and speaks from the bench during a game.
The Boston Celtics suspended coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season for violating the team policies.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season, effective immediately, and with no guarantee he will be back with the franchise in the future.

The Celtics said Thursday night that Udoka was suspended for “violations of team policies.“ Earlier Thursday, two people with knowledge of the matter said Udoka was being sanctioned because of an improper relationship with a member of the organization. Those people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not reveal that detail publicly.

“A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,“ the Celtics said.

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Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka got his first taste of the NBA as a Laker alongside Shaq and Kobe before carving out a career as a player and coach.

Udoka, in a statement published by ESPN, apologized but did not offer details.

“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,“ he said.

One of the people who spoke with the AP said Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will take over on an interim basis. Mazzulla interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job this summer, a position that ultimately went to Will Hardy, another of Udoka’s assistants in Boston last season. Udoka’s other assistant coaches were Damon Stoudemire, Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles and Tony Dobbins.

It’s the second major disciplinary situation in as many weeks in the NBA, following the decision last week by Commissioner Adam Silver to suspend Robert Sarver — the owner of the Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — for one year and fine him $10 million after an investigation showed his pattern of disturbing workplace conduct, including abusive and racist language. Sarver said Wednesday he intends to sell his teams.

What does the removal of Clippers owner Donald Sterling tell us about what it would take for disgraced Suns owner Robert Sarver to be ousted?

Udoka had a brilliant first season with the Celtics, finishing the regular season at 51-31 — going 26-6 in the final 32 games — and leading Boston past Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami on the way to the NBA Finals. The Celtics lost the title series to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

Losing Udoka is going to be a significant blow to a team that is widely considered among the favorites to contend for an NBA title this season.

The developments are reminiscent of the shakeup across town in 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. Instead, the sides parted ways.

After a last-place finish under Ron Roenicke in the pandemic-shortened season, Cora was rehired a year later and welcomed back.

It is most unclear if Udoka will follow in that path.


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