Celtics coach Ime Udoka faces a suspension for violating team policy, a league source confirmed late Wednesday night. The source said the sentence is likely to be decided soon, but declined to comment on Udoka’s situation.
The Athletic reported early Thursday morning that Udoka, 45, was in an inappropriately intimate and consensual relationship with a female team member. Udoka has been engaged to actress Nia Long since 2015 and the couple have an 11-year-old son.
According to ESPN, the Celtics are considering a suspension that could last up to a year.
After a challenging start that saw the Celtics miss the playoffs last season, Udoka led the team to the NBA Finals in his first season as NBA head coach and finished fourth in the Coach of the Year award. He won the trust and respect of his players with his demanding, disciplined style based on responsibility.
It is unclear which Celtics assistant would fill in for Udoka if he is suspended. Will Hardy, Boston’s chief assistant last season, would have been an obvious choice, but in June he was named the Jazz’s head coach. Ben Sullivan led Boston’s Las Vegas Summer League team in July and was an assistant to the Bucks when they won the NBA title in 2021. Seen as a rising star in coaching, Joe Mazzulla interviewed for the Utah opening before finally being promoted to a bench role on Udoka’s staff this summer.
After taking two NBA title victories last June, the Celtics added veterans Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to their young, talented roster built around Jayson Tatum, the First Team All-NBA pick. Boston then became the gambling favorite to win the championship.
But the past few weeks have been bumpy.
Gallinari tore his ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier and is expected to miss the entire season. Then the Celtics announced on Tuesday that center Robert Williams, who missed a month last spring after tearing his meniscus, will undergo a second surgery on the left knee and will be out for 4-6 weeks.
Now Udoka’s situation has made things even more troubled. The Celtics will hold a media day on Monday before opening a training camp at the Auerbach Center on Tuesday.