Celtics suspend coach Ime Udoka for entire 2022-23 season for ‘team policy violations’

The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season for “violations of team policy,” the franchise announced on Thursday. Udoka’s suspension is effective immediately and the Celtics will make a decision about his future after this season at a later date.

Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will reportedly act as interim coach, according to ESPN. The Celtics press release announcing Udoka’s suspension did not provide any insight into who will take over the team.

Udoka released a personal statement following the Boston announcement: “I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for disappointing them. I’m sorry to put the team in this difficult situation and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will not comment further.”

The reason for Udoka’s suspension is an alleged consensual but inappropriate relationship with a team member, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Wednesday. Udoka considered resigning from his position, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated; however, he has reportedly decided not to resign.

Boston hired Udoka last June after Brad Stevens, Udoka’s predecessor, took over as team president. The Celtics started 23-24 under Udoka but dominated the remainder of the regular season by winning 28 of their last 35 games. They finished with the best defense in the NBA and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Boston eventually lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors.

Before joining the Celtics, Udoka was an assistant coach for nine seasons and spent seven on Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs staff before spending a year with Brett Brown on the Philadelphia 76ers and Steve Nash on the Brooklyn Nets.

Mazzulla was an assistant coach under both Udoka and Stevens, after being hired by then-President Danny Ainge in 2019. Earlier this season, he interviewed for the Utah Jazz open head coach position, which eventually went to former Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy. After that, Boston Mazzulla was promoted to a role on the bench, according to the Boston Globe.

In 2013-14, Mazzulla began his coaching career as an assistant at Fairmont State. He left after three years to join the Celtics’ G League affiliate, then known as the Maine Red Claws, for a year. He returned to Fairmont State, where he was the coach for two years, leading the team to a 43-17 record and exiting the first round in the 2019 NCAA Division II tournament.

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