The head coach of the Boston Celtics may be facing a lengthy suspension — up to a full season — by the organization.
Two people familiar with the situation told the Associated Press that Ime Udoka had a consensual romantic relationship with another Celtics employee. A league source tells The Boston Globe that violates the organization's code of conduct.
Udoka earned the respect of fans last season when he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first year as head coach. Now, his fortunes — and the fortunes of the Celtics — may be changing.
WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins spoke with Boston Globe basketball writer Gary Washburn about the news.
On what is known regarding the possible Udoka suspension:
"The team has yet to make any announcement. So there's just a lot of speculation going on. Will he resign? Will he be fired? If he'll be suspended, for how long he'll be suspended. Who's going to take over as interim coach in case he's suspended? Will he accept his suspension? So a lot of things [are] in the works right now, because when you make a move like this and you attempt to suspend ... lawyers get involved, and the rights get involved in all this stuff."
On the possible interim head coach:
"There's a couple of assistants. One in particular is named Joe Mazzulla, who coached the summer league team. He's a rising young coach. He was a finalist for the Utah Jazz position that went to another Celtics assistant named Will Hardy. So he would probably be the most likely candidate. Then they would add someone else onto the staff as an assistant coach."
On the provision in the Celtics code of conduct that was reportedly violated:
"I have not been able to see the Celtics code of conduct. ... Obviously this is a team rule. This is the Celtics code of ethics. So obviously for every employee, they must release a code of ethics. You know, does it say you must not ever have a relationship with a co-worker? I doubt that that happens, because this happens all the time. There's plenty of healthy relationships between co-workers that occur in the workplace. Or was it something about being a subordinate? As the Celtics coach, was he given a particular set of guidelines to agree to the contract that he signed. ... This might be something especially designed that was in his contract. ... We really don't know whether there was just a consensual relationship that was perhaps against the organization rules ... or is this something — an act that Udoka carried out that crossed the line here."
On what this means for the Celtics and their season, which starts in less than a month:
"It's a real blow. I mean, [Udoka is] obviously a guy who led them to the NBA Finals, someone who was popular among the players, who had done a good job. Now they have to adjust to a new coach, a new voice, someone who's considerably younger. [Mazzulla is 34]. Ime [Udoka] is 44. So just an entirely new kind of voice system. It's going to take some adjustment time. I think the players will adjust. They adjust to these things. Coaches get fired in mid-season, and the players adjust to that all the time. But I think in this situation, it's going to take them a while to to move forward."
This segment aired on September 22, 2022.