Celtics Notes: Udoka, Mazzulla, Tatum, Kornet

Meeting with reporters in his return to Boston tonight, Rockets coach Ime Udoka expressed regret that he wasn’t able to stay with the Celtics long enough to lead them to a championship, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Udoka took Boston to the NBA Finals in 2022, but he was suspended shortly before the start of last season over an affair with a staff member. Joe Mazzulla was named the team’s permanent head coach before the season ended.

“Job not finished,” Udoka responded when asked to look back on his lone season with the Celtics. “[I] formed a lot of relationships within a year, and obviously want to get a chance to run it back with a group you feel you can build and grow with. So, letting the people down. I talked about the players, the relationships I built with them, the coaches that came with me, and then everybody else that was impacted by it. So for me that’s the biggest thing I would say overall is letting some people down, for sure. But we’ve talked it out and I’ve seen a lot of these people throughout the summer and talk regularly and so we move past it.”

Udoka received a mixed response from fans at TD Garden, according to Bontemps. The game marked the first matchup between Udoka and Mazzulla, his former assistant, but Bontemps says both coaches downplayed its significance.

“Obviously, the fact that Ime is back, that’s great,” Mazzulla said. “We worked together, and guys on the staff, but I don’t think that really has anything to do with winning or losing.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Some Celtics players complained last season that they were kept in the dark about the reasons for Udoka’s suspension and dismissal, but Udoka contends that’s not accurate, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Udoka told reporters he was “upfront” with his players and explained the situation to some of them. “I would say they lied to [the media],” Udoka said. “They knew, some of them knew and, you know, obviously I could talk to them and they wouldn’t share stuff publicly. So, who needed to know, knew.”
  • Jayson Tatum got ejected early in the fourth quarter tonight even though the Celtics had a huge lead at the time, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Tatum was angry after not getting a foul call on a dunk attempt. “At some point throughout the course of the night, you’ve got to stand up for yourself,” he explained. “It’s not an every game thing or every night, but I’m not perfect. I’m going to get techs throughout every season. Tonight I just had to kind of let him know how I felt and that was that. I wasn’t holding no grudge or anything after the game. I wasn’t kicking (expletive) over in the locker room. I’m not holding no grudge. It happened, we move on, and we get ready for the next one.”
  • Luke Kornet is in front of Neemias Queta on the depth chart because Mazzulla has more trust in Kornet’s defense, Brian Robb of MassLive states in a mailbag column.
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