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Boston Celtics suspend coach Ime Udoka for the upcoming season

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is suspended for the entire 2022-2023 season, the team announced late Thursday.
Morry Gash
Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is suspended for the entire 2022-2023 season, the team announced late Thursday.

The Boston Celtics have suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season, citing "violations of team policies." The suspension is immediate, the team said as it announced the move Thursday night.

The team did not provide details about any allegations against Udoka, or its findings. But rumors had been swirling about Udoka's future after reports emerged that he was involved in "an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team staff," as The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.

On Friday, the Celtics held a press conference with its president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, and majority owner Wyc Grousbeck.

"Once we learned there was a potential situation we brought in a law firm to perform an impartial investigation," Grousbeck said, noting there were leaks at the time and the team doesn't know where they came from.

"It is really unfortunate that female staff members have been drug into the public eye unwillingly, and we regret this, and its unfortunate. I won't be referring to anyone else that might involved for privacy reasons," Grousbeck added.

Udoka, who Grousbeck said told him he accepted the decision and appreciated how it was handled, will be suspended through June 30. At that time, the team will make a decision about Udoka's future with the Celtics.

No one else in the organization is facing disciplinary actions, Grousbeck added.

Grousbeck also said that he and Stevens had met with the players.

"In general they are very concerned about this," he said. "But they have energy and focus and commitment to accomplish great things this season."

Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will now be promoted to interim head coach for the upcoming season. At 34, he — along with Will Hardy, coach of the Utah Jazz — will be the youngest coaches in the NBA.

News of the suspension came just 10 days before the Celtics will open their preseason in early October. It derails Udoka's attempt to repeat his stellar first year as Boston's head coach, when he led the team to the NBA finals for the first time since 2010.

"I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down," Udoka said, in a statement shared by ESPN's Malika Andrews. "I am 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, became the Celtics' coach in the summer of 2021 after spending much of the previous decade in assistant coaching jobs with the San Antonio Spurs and two other NBA teams.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Matt Adams
Matt Adams is an Audience Engagement Strategist at NPR, where he is always thinking of how a broadcast company can do more on the internet. His focus is on social media strategy and how to connect NPR with new audiences in creative ways, from community building to social audio.