Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka suspended for 2022-23 season

Werner+Kunz+via+Creative+Commons

Werner Kunz via Creative Commons

By Aidan Crooke

On Sept. 22, the Boston Celtics issued a press release stating a simple message that changed the expectations for the upcoming season:

“The Boston Celtics announced today that the team has suspended Head Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violations of team policies,” the press release stated. “A decision about his future with the Celtics will be made at a later date. The suspension takes effect immediately.”

According to ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the suspension was a result of a “consensual relationship with a female staff member.” As a result, Assistant Coach Joe Mazzulla received a promotion to interim head coach.  

Udoka joined the Celtics at the beginning of the 2021 season and coached a team that finished just two games from winning it all. But just when things were looking up for the C’s, a tsunami washed away the confidence of many Celtics fans.

As the internet does best, many rumors conspired across social media that have not only tainted the validity of the narratives, but also gone on to antagonize multiple women on Celtics’ staff, blaming and scrutinizing each for Udoka’s faults. 

“I think nobody can control Twitter speculation and rampant bullshit,” Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens said in a press conference on Sep. 24. “I think we, as an organization, have a responsibility to make sure we’re there to support [the staffers] now because a lot of people were unfairly dragged into that.”

Wyc Grousbeck, governor and majority owner of the Celtics, stated the suspension was “warranted and appropriate, backed by substantial research, evidence, and facts,” as well as stating that Udoka was “accepting” of the suspension as a whole.

In an appearance on First Take, Wojnarowski stated Grousbeck and Stevens “did not provide a lot of clarity” on their thought process for the suspension rather than immediate dismissal. Udoka released a statement immediately after the Celtics announced his suspension, stating he was “sorry for putting [the Celtics] in this difficult situation, and [he accepts] the team’s decision.”

Udoka, of course, has also received his end of the media backlash, being called “selfish” by many. He has been in a relationship with actress Nia Long for 10 years, and the two have been engaged since 2015. His infidelity has perplexed the internet but also frustrated many. 

As the Celtics went into damage control and the higher-ups discussed their options, Celtics Media Day arrived on the 26th—Udoka’s cheating scandal being the hot topic.

Questions about the situation were asked and short answers were given, but many players mentioned being left in the dark. 

“It’s been hell for us,” said Marcus Smart, Celtics guard and reigning NBA defensive player of the year. “Nobody really knows anything so we’re just in the wind like everybody else, so these last couple of days have been confusing.” 

Several players expressed shock and confusion throughout the press conference, indicating a frustration with the lack of concern for players on behalf of Celtics management. 

As the Celtics approach training camp and preseason, the reigning Eastern Conference champions must be ready to adapt and overcome this scandal that’s practically changed their team. Training camp begins on Sept. 28, with the Celtics beginning their new season on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.