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Celtics announce head coach Ime Udoka banned for season over improper relationship | NBA

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The Boston Celtics have suspended Ime Udoka for a full 12 months, banning the coach who led them to the NBA finals last spring for all the 2022-23 season over what two individuals with knowledge of the matter said was an improper relationship with a member of the organization.

The people spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity since the team didn’t reveal that detail publicly. In an announcement issued Thursday night after a full day of wrangling over the terms of the punishment, the Celtics said Udoka violated team policies and left open the likelihood that an extended separation could follow.

“A call about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will likely be made at a later date,” the team said.

Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim coach, one among the individuals who spoke with the AP said. The defending Eastern Conference champions are scheduled to carry media day on Monday and open training camp on Tuesday in preparation for the 18 October season opener.

In an announcement published by ESPN, Udoka apologized “to our players, fans, all the Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down”.

“I’m sorry for putting the team on this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision,” he said. “Out of respect for everybody involved, I may have no further comment.”

A longtime assistant in his first NBA head coaching job, Udoka led Boston to a 51-31 record last season – going 26-6 in the ultimate 32 games. The Celtics beat Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami on the option to the NBA finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

The developments stunned the NBA and shook up a team that had been among the many favorites to contend for a championship this season. It could be an unprecedented 18th title for the franchise.

But in Boston, the story was paying homage to the shakeup across town in 2020, when Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a 12 months for his role in a sign-stealing scandal at his previous job, with the Houston Astros. As an alternative, the perimeters parted ways.

After a last-place finish under Ron Roenicke within the pandemic-shortened season, Cora was re-hired a 12 months later and welcomed back.

It’s unclear if Udoka and the Celtics will likely be as desirous to reunite.

The 45-year-old Udoka spent the majority of his NBA playing profession with San Antonio after which joined Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff as an assistant. Udoka was on the Spurs’ staff from 2012 through 2019, winning all of it in ‘14, and he quickly found his way onto short lists 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 in June 2021 because the successor to Brad Stevens – who moved as much as the front office. In 12 months one, Udoka finished fourth in coach of the 12 months voting and the Celtics got here inside two wins of the championship.

“The longer term is brilliant and we’re just getting began,” Udoka said after the NBA finals.

Perhaps not.

The bombshell on the eve of coaching camp is the most recent twist heading into what was presupposed to be a promising season for the NBA’s most decorated franchise.

Ime Udoka, center left, talks with players throughout the first half of Game 2 of the NBA finals in June. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/AP

The Celtics bolstered their runner-up roster by acquiring guard Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from Indiana, then added sharpshooting veteran forward Danilo Gallinari as a free agent. But last month, Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee and will likely be lost for the approaching season.

Center Robert Williams, a key a part of the Boston defense scheme who played through injuries during last season’s playoffs, continues to be coping with knee soreness and is predicted to miss the beginning of the season.

The Celtics were also mentioned in speculation over a latest home for Brooklyn forward Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star who asked for – after which backed off – a request to be traded. Although the talks amounted to nothing, it raised questions on Boston’s commitment to young star Jaylen Brown.

It’s also the second major disciplinary situation in as many weeks within the NBA: commissioner Adam Silver decided last week to suspend Robert Sarver – the owner of the Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury – for one 12 months and effective him $10m after an investigation showed his pattern of disturbing workplace conduct, including abusive and racist language. Sarver said Wednesday he intends to sell his teams.

Mazzulla interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job this summer, a position that ultimately went to Will Hardy – one other of Udoka’s assistants in Boston last season.

Mazzulla’s only previous experience as a head coach is a two-year stint at Division II’s Fairmont State in West Virginia, where he went 43-17 and made the NCAA tournament in his second season. A native Recent Englander from Rhode Island, Mazzulla played at West Virginia, was an assistant for the Celtics’ G League team before taking up at Fairmont State, after which got hired by the Celtics again in June 2019 to be a part of Stevens’ staff.

Mazzulla’s last game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game with the Celtics will attract a bit more attention: Boston is scheduled to host longtime rival Philadelphia within the opener, when they are going to tip off a year-long tribute to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

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