The affair with a staff member that led to coach Ime Udoka’s year-long suspension has been known about by some members of the Celtics organization since July, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Franchise leaders originally believed the affair was consensual, but sources tell Charania that the woman recently accused Udoka of making “unwanted comments” to her. That led to several internal interviews that resulted in Thursday’s announcement that Udoka won’t coach the team this season.
Team owners and president Brad Stevens met for several hours Thursday to determine what action to take against Udoka, Charania’s sources add. Stevens and some front office officials also talked to players about Udoka’s fate at the team facility.
The 45-year-old coach issued a brief statement Thursday night apologizing to players, fans, the team and his family. He said he accepts the decision and won’t comment any further on the situation.
There’s more on the potential effects of Udoka’s suspension:
- Udoka may become a candidate for other head coaching jobs that open up, possibly as soon as this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on a SportsCenter appearance (video link). Udoka wasn’t given any assurances that he will return to the Celtics’ sidelines once his suspension is over, and Woj indicates that the team is still figuring out its next step. Wojnarowski also said the decision to impose a one-year suspension rather than firing Udoka right away could be “legal protection” for the organization.
- Joe Mazzulla, who will take over as interim coach, will be in a difficult position all season, Jared Weiss of The Athletic says in a discussion of how Udoka’s actions will affect the team. Mazzulla is getting his first head coaching opportunity at age 34, but not as the result of going through the normal hiring process. The Celtics have confidence in Mazzulla, but the pressure to succeed will be intense. The team expects to contend for a title after its run to the NBA Finals last season, and there could be calls for a change if Mazzulla doesn’t succeed right away.
- Don’t be surprised if the Celtics consider bringing in Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as an assistant, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Vogel has a long relationship with Stevens and would bring some head coaching experience to the team’s bench.
- The Udoka situation could have negative repercussions long past this season, suggests A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Udoka was hired partially because of the bonds he formed with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Team USA, and Blakely wonders if his potential departure might make those stars look elsewhere when they become free agents.