The Boston Celtics on Thursday suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for “violations of team policies”, according to a statement released by the team.
“A decision regarding his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the Celtics said in a statement. “The suspension takes effect immediately.”
Udoka had a consensual relationship with a Celtics staffer, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak about the sensitive nature of the subject.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will serve as interim coach, according to ESPN.
“I want to apologize to our players, our fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said in a statement to ESPN. “I’m 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.”
Udoka, 45, is considered one of the best promising coaches in the league. In his first season as Celtics coach in 2021-22, he led them to a 51-31 record and the Eastern Conference championship before losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
WHO IS IME UDOKA? The suspended Celtics coach was considered one of the best young coaches in the NBA
SPORTS NEWSLETTER:Sign up now to receive daily top sports headlines
The Celtics were 23-24 on Jan. 21 and have won 28 of their last 35 games, finishing the second seed in the East. Boston beat Milwaukee in seven games in the second round and beat Miami in seven games in the conference finals.
Udoka is credited with installing a defense-first mentality and players have even bought into his fiery and demanding style. He’s not afraid to yell at players during a game or criticize their play to the media after games.
He finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, and the Celtics are set to challenge for the conference championship again this season with a core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
It’s devastating for Boston as a franchise and as a team trying to win a championship. The Celtics thrived on continuity, and it was disrupted. It’s been decades since the Celtics have had a personal trainer for a single season. Satch Sanders took over from Tommy Heinsohn in 1977-78 but lasted just 14 games the following season.
After Tatum, Brown and Smart, the Celtics have Al Horford, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard back from the Conference Championship team and added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari (injured) in the offseason .
But returning to the Finals with an interim coach amid this scandal in a deeper Eastern Conference has become more difficult for the Celtics.