Ime Udoka, the man responsible for coaching the Boston Celtics to an Eastern Conference championship this past NBA season, has now found himself in some scalding hot water.
In the late hours of the night, this past Wednesday ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted about allegations against Udoka.
“ESPN Sources: Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is facing possible disciplinary action – including a significant suspension – for an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines. Discussions are ongoing within the Celtics on a final determination,” Wojnarowski said.
While the internet disseminated the bits and pieces of information flooding timelines across the country, Wojnarowski dropped another earth-shattering tweet in the middle of the day on Thursday.
“Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is likely facing a suspension for the entire 2022-2023 season for his role in a consensual relationship with a female staff member, sources tell ESPN. A formal announcement is expected as soon as today,” Wojnarowski said.
The news, for many, was shocking to hear knowing that Udoka had been in a committed relationship and engagement with acclaimed actress, Nia Long. As the story continued to break last week, word surfaced through Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports that the pair had split up earlier that week. Udoka had also been confirmed sharing that information with his players in a team meeting around the same time.
A TMZ Sports piece highlighted the complications of Udoka’s current relationship with Long. Long and her ten-year-old son Kez traveled to Boston two weeks ago to begin house hunting with Udoka. While Udoka had been keeping his affair under wraps, he had only broken the news to his fiancée this past week, knowing the story went public.
Writers at The Athletic made information public that the Celtics’ ownership had been made aware of a consensual relationship involving their head coach back in July, prompting team governor Wyc Grousbeck to hire a legal firm. The relationship continued until recently when the female staffer involved spoke out and claimed Udoka had made unwanted comments directed at her. The accusation was enough to file a formal complaint and prompt an internal investigation.
In a press conference on Friday, both Grousbeck and the president of basketball operations Brad Stevens spoke to Boston media for the first time since the story broke.
“The suspension is for a season, through June 30 – we will make a determination at a later time about Ime’s future with us,” Grousbeck said.
Stevens was more emotionally charged in his press conference, attacking members of the Boston media and Twitter users for singling out each and every female employee on the team’s staff, with many claiming to know exactly which employee was involved in a relationship with Udoka.
While a majority of the news leaking into the public really is just speculation, there’s certainly far more to this story than what we’ve already seen.
In response to Udoka’s suspension, the team elevated assistant coach Joe Mazzulla to the head coaching position in preparation for the 2022-23 NBA season. Mazzulla is a West Virginia University Mountaineer graduate, and the former head coach of D2 powerhouse Fairmont State. Mazzulla arrived in Boston to join the Celtics staff in 2019, serving as an assistant coach under both Stevens and Udoka’s head coaching tenures.
Mazzulla himself was under fire in recent days when a report surfaced that he was arrested for a domestic incident at a nightclub while playing for the Mountaineers in 2009, as well as another arrest in 2015 for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Stevens was quick to defend his new team leader.
“When I was considering hiring him as an assistant, I vetted him thoroughly. I believe strongly in his substantiveness as a person. He’s been very open with me on how those incidents impacted him,” Stevens said.
This will be Mazzulla’s first big-league head coaching position, as he fills a role that very well could have been perfect for former Celtics assistant Will Hardy. The Jazz and former Celtics general manager Danny Ainge came knocking to find a replacement for the departing Quin Snyder, with Hardy’s mind being the perfect fit this past summer.
With question marks surrounding how long the Jays can last together, whether we can afford to keep this core together, and when banner eighteen will finally hang from the rafters, the necessary suspension of Udoka certainly throws a spanner into an already messy situation.