Celtics suspend coach Ime Udoka for 2022-23 season

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics have suspended Ime Udoka for a full year, banning the coach who led them to the NBA Finals last spring for the entire 2022-23 season, according to the report. The two men said it was an inappropriate relationship with a member of the organization.

People spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not reveal that details publicly. In a statement released Thursday night after a full day’s wrangling over the terms of the sentence, the Celtics said Udoka violated team policies and left open the possibility that a longer separation could take place.

“A decision on his future with the Celtics will be made later this season,” the team said.

One of the people the AP spoke with said assistant coach Joe Majulla will take over as interim coach. The defending Eastern Conference champions will hold a media day on Monday and open training camp on Tuesday to prepare for the first season on October 18.

In a statement published by ESPN, Udoka apologized to “our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for disappointing him.”

“I am sorry to put the team in this difficult position and I accept the team’s decision,” he said. “In honor of everyone involved, I will have no further comments.”

A longtime assistant in his first NBA head coaching job, Udoka led Boston to a 51-31 record last season – leading 26-6 in the final 32 games. The Celtics defeated Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami on their way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

The developments stunned the NBA and shook a team that was one of the favorites for the championship this season. This will be an unprecedented 18th title for the franchise.

But in Boston, the story is reminiscent of the city-wide shakeup in 2020, when Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for his role in the sign-theft scandal at his previous job with the Houston Astros. was given. Instead, the sides parted.

After finishing last under Ron Roenick in a pandemic-shortened season, Cora was rehired a year later and welcomed back.

It is unclear whether Udoka and the Celtics will be eager to reunite.

Udoka, 45, spent the bulk of his NBA playing career with San Antonio and then joined the staff of Spurs coach Greg Popovich as an assistant. Udoka was on the Spurs staff from 2012 to 2019, won it all in ’14, and he quickly found his way onto the shortlist for open head coaching jobs.

He spent the 2019-20 season in Philadelphia and the 2020-21 season in Brooklyn before the Celtics hired him as successor to Brad Stevens in June 2021 – who moved to the front office. In Year 1, Udoka finished fourth in the Coach of the Year voting and came within two wins of the Celtics championship.

“The future is bright and we are just getting started,” Udoka said after the NBA Finals.

Maybe not.

The blast on the eve of training camp is the latest turning point in what is considered a promising season for the NBA’s most decorated franchise.

The Celtics strengthened their runner-up roster by acquiring guard Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from Indiana, then adding sharpshooting veteran forward Danilo Gallinari as a free agent. But last month, Gallinari tore an ACL in his left knee and would be lost for the season to come.

Center Robert Williams, a key part of the Boston defense plan, who battled injuries during last season’s playoffs, is still battling with knee pain and is expected to miss the start of the season.

The Celtics were also mentioned in speculation of a new home for Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star who sought — and then backed out — requests to trade. Although the talks came to nothing, it raised questions about Boston’s commitment to youth star Jaylen Brown.

It is also the second major disciplinary situation in the NBA in as many weeks: Commissioner Adam Silver last week decided to suspend Robert Sarver – the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury – for a year after an investigation levied $10 million on him. Dollar fined. Patterns of impairing workplace conduct, including abusive and racist language. Sarwar said on Wednesday that he intends to sell his teams.

Mazulla interviewed this summer for a Utah Jazz coaching job, a position that eventually went to Will Hardy—one of Udoka’s assistants—in Boston last season.

Mazulla’s only previous experience as head coach is a two-year stint at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia, where he went 43-17 to make the NCAA Tournament in his second season. A native New Englander from Rhode Island, Mazulla played in West Virginia, was an assistant for the Celtics’ G League team before taking over at Fairmont State, and then was rehired by the Celtics in June 2019 to become part of Stevens’ staff. kept on.

Majulla’s last game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game with the Celtics will garner a bit more attention: Boston is set to host longtime rival Philadelphia in the opener, when they pay a year-long tribute to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

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Reynolds reported from Miami.

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