The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season over "violations of team policies," the franchise announced Thursday. Udoka's suspension begin effective immediately, and Celtics will make a decision about his future beyond this season at a later date.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will reportedly serve as interim coach, according to ESPN. The Celtics' press release announcing Udoka's suspension did not contain any insight as to who will take over the team.
Udoka released a personal statement in the wake of Boston's announcement:
"I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down. 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 reason for Udoka's suspension is an improper relationship with a team staff member, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Wednesday. Udoka considered resigning from his position, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix. However, he has reportedly decided not to resign. The Celtics first became aware of the relationship in July and were led to believe by both parties that it was consensual, according to Charania. However, the sources later revealed the woman accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her, which prompted an investigation into their relationship.
Boston hired Udoka last June after Brad Stevens, Udoka's predecessor, took over as team president. The Celtics started 23-24 under Udoka but dominated the remainder of the regular season by winning 28 of their last 35 games. They finished with the best defense in the NBA and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Boston ultimately lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Prior to joining the Celtics, Udoka was an assistant coach for nine seasons spending seven Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs staff before one-year stints with Brett Brown on the Philadelphia 76ers and Steve Nash on the Brooklyn Nets.
Mazzulla was an assistant coach under both Udoka and Stevens, having been hired by then-president Danny Ainge in 2019. Earlier this offseason, he interviewed for the Utah Jazz's's open head-coaching position, which eventually went to former Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy. Afterward, Boston promoted Mazzulla to a front-of-bench role, according to the Boston Globe.
In 2013-14, Mazzulla started his coaching career as an assistant at Fairmont State. He left after three years to join the Celtics' G League affiliate, then known as the Maine Red Claws, for one year. He returned to Fairmont State where he was the coach for two years leading the team to a 43-17 record and first-round exit in the 2019 NCAA Division II Tournament.