Boston Celtics suspend head coach Ime Udoka for entire 2022-23 NBA season

The Boston Celtics have suspended second-year head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 NBA season for violations of the team’s code of conduct, the organization announced on Thursday night.

Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will serve as the team’s interim head coach in Udoka’s absence, . A decision about Udoka’s longterm future with the team beyond the 2022-23 season, the Celtics said, “will be made at a later date.” Udoka issued an apology in a vague statement.

“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said, . “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.”

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported overnight on Thursday, citing anonymous sources, that Udoka allegedly “.”

Udoka led the Celtics to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010 in his debut season as a head coach. Boston is the favorite to win the 2023 championship, . Udoka played parts of seven NBA seasons for five different teams before joining the as an assistant in 2012. The 45-year-old also spent time as an assistant with the and before the Celtics gave him an overdue opportunity to lead a team. He finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting last season.

Mazzulla was an assistant for Boston’s G League affiliate in Maine during the 2016-17 season. He coached West Virginia’s Fairmont State University at the Division II college level for two seasons before joining then-Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ staff as an assistant in 2019. Stevens moved into Boston’s front office in 2021, assuming the role vacated by former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and also hiring Udoka.

The 34-year-old Mazzulla coached the Celtics’ 2021 Las Vegas Summer League roster to the championship game. He interviewed for the head coaching position that Udoka filled last year. Over the summer, Mazzulla also interviewed with Ainge, now the chief executive, for the opening left by head coach Quin Snyder’s departure. The Jazz ultimately hired Will Hardy, the lead assistant on Udoka’s staff last season.

“I talked to everybody in the organization when I got hired, players included, and he got glowing reviews,” Udoka said of Mazzulla in June, when news of his Jazz interview broke. “I didn’t know much about him going into it, but I take the players’ opinions at a high value, and he was a guy that was a consensus yes. … It’s easy to see why, once I got to know him and be around him. What I’ve encouraged our guys to do is be more vocal, be more out there, and get their own voice, in the same way I was brought up in San Antonio.”

A monumental task awaits Mazzulla. Udoka drew rave reviews for inspiring Boston’s transformation from a sub-.500 team at midseason into a juggernaut. Over the final three months of last season, the Celtics owned the league’s best record (28-8), best offensive rating (120 points per 100 possessions) and best defensive rating (105.1 points allowed per 100 possessions). They captured the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs and defeating the and in consecutive seven-game series, before losing to the in the Finals, 4-2.

Following the trade acquisition of former Rookie of the Year in July, which bolstered Boston’s chances of returning to the Finals, the Celtics have suffered a string of unfortunate news events. Veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, who signed a free-agent contract with the Celtics this summer, tore his left ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier in late August. Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that All-Defensive center this week on his left knee.

The Celtics are scheduled to host their media day festivities on Monday at 12 p.m. ET.

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