Celtics address Ime Udoka's one-year suspension for violating team policies: Takeaways from Boston's presser

The Boston Celtics addressed the media Friday morning for the first time since announcing that head coach Ime Udoka would be suspended for the 2022-23 season. To recap what is known at this time, Udoka allegedly had an improper relationship with another Celtics employee, and Udoka has since admitted to his transgression and apologized. While both parties initially led the team to believe that the relationship was consensual, the woman later accused Udoka of making unwanted comments, which prompted a series of internal interviews, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla has been tapped to replace Udoka as the interim coach for the season, but it is unclear if Udoka will return after that. In their statement issued Thursday, the Celtics explained that "a decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date." 

Here are the biggest takeaways from Friday's press conference.

Stevens did not consider returning as Celtics coach

When the news of Udoka's suspension first dropped, many assumed that Stevens himself -- the team's former coach and current president of basketball operations -- would return to his former seat. It made sense. The Celtics are a championship contender. Asking a first-time head coach to take over under such unfortunate circumstances puts that coach in a difficult position. Stevens has proven he can win with this roster.

But as he explained, he did not consider returning to the bench. While co-owner Wyc Grousbeck acknowledged that there was a conversation about it, they ultimately decided to go with Mazzulla. "Joe's the best choice to do that by a long shot," Stevens said.

Udoka's future has not yet been determined

Udoka's suspension, for the time being, will last one season. At this point, that means it will expire on June 30, 2023. However, the Celtics made it clear that they have not made any long-term decisions about Udoka's future at this time. Just as their statement indicated, his fate will be decided at a later date. The Celtics did not give a clear criteria about what it would take for Udoka to eventually return, but he was found to have committed a "volume of violations."

No decisions have been made about adding to coaching staff

The Celtics haven't just lost Udoka. Earlier in the offseason, top assistant Will Hardy left Boston to become the head coach of the Utah Jazz. That has left its staff down arguably its two top coaches from a season ago. There has been some speculation that Boston would consider hiring another coach, ideally someone with head-coaching experience, to help round out the staff in Udoka's absence. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix speculated that Frank Vogel, former coach of the Lakers, would make sense given his long-time relationship with Stevens.

Stevens said during the press conference that no decisions have been made about adding to the staff, but he would not rule it out. He repeatedly praised the current staff and claimed that they "check a lot of boxes" that the team would be looking for. 

Mazzulla was vetted when Celtics initially hired him

Mazzulla is not being investigated for any violations at this time, but in 2009, he was arrested for domestic battery after an incident in Morgantown, West Virginia in which he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck at a bar. This has caused an outcry among fans and media, especially considering the nature of Udoka's alleged violations.

Stevens revealed that the Celtics vetted Mazzulla when they initially hired him as an assistant three years ago. He explained that he believes "strongly that that probably shaped him into who he is today in a really, really good way. He'll be the first to tell you he's 100% accountable for that."

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The Celtics are asked about Joe Mazzulla's domestic battery arrest in 2009. Brad Stevens revealed that when they initially hired Mazzulla, he was vetted thoroughly. "I believe strongly that that shaped him into who he is today in a really good way. He'll be the first to tell you that he's 110% accountable for that. I'll be the first to tell you that I believe in him."

September 23, 2022, 3:36 PM
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Celtics haven't discussed adding to the coaching staff, but Stevens won't rule it out. Reports had indicated that the Celtics might want to add some head-coaching experience before the season. 

September 23, 2022, 3:31 PM
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"I'm really confident in the team that's going to take the court on Tuesday." - Brad Stevens.

September 23, 2022, 3:27 PM
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"He's an exceptionally sharp and talented person. I believe strongly in him and his ability to lead people, to galvanize a room and get behind him. And his ability to organize and understand all that comes with running a team through the season." - Brad Stevens on Joe Mazzulla.

September 23, 2022, 3:26 PM
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Joe Mazzulla will coach the team, according to Brad Stevens.

September 23, 2022, 3:25 PM
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"We think our culture is very strong. We're very proud of it. But this has shaken it. I don't think there is a wider issue than what we've spent several months uncovering." - Grousbeck.

September 23, 2022, 3:24 PM
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"We're not going to talk about the long-term because nothing has been decided," - Grousbeck.

September 23, 2022, 3:21 PM
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Grousbeck stands by the length of his suspension, and reveals that Udoka has accepted the suspension.

September 23, 2022, 3:19 PM
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Wyc Grousbeck was asked what it would take to revisit Udoka's place with the team after June 30th, but declined to offer a firm answer.

September 23, 2022, 3:17 PM
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Udoka's suspension will last for a season, through June 30th, 2023. A decision about Udoka's future after that will be determined at a later date.

September 23, 2022, 3:14 PM
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Boston's players are "very concerned about this" according to Grousbeck, who has met with the team alongside Brad Stevens.

September 23, 2022, 3:14 PM
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The Celtics will not refer to anyone else involved in Udoka's suspension for privacy reasons.

September 23, 2022, 3:13 PM
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The Celtics reveal they hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. The report from that investigation ended two days ago. 

September 23, 2022, 3:12 PM
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Wyc Grousbeck says that he will be unable to provide many details about the nature of Udoka's violations and defers to the team's statement.

September 23, 2022, 3:12 PM
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Brad Stevens and Wyc Grousbeck are at the microphone.

September 23, 2022, 3:11 PM
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The Celtics came two wins short of a championship last season. They've been the betting favorite to win it all throughout the offseason. But their future is a question mark after an offseason that had already been fairly tumultuous. Jaylen Brown was featured in trade rumors involving Kevin Durant. Free-agent addition Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL in Eurobasket. Robert Williams III is having another surgery. Now, the Celtics have lost their coach for the season.

September 23, 2022, 2:50 PM
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Udoka's suspension is essentially unprecedented in the NBA. Coaches have been suspended in years past, but never for extended periods. Recent coaches to be suspended include Jason Kidd, Mike Budenholzer, and Wizards assistant Mike Batiste. These were all short suspensions that took place due to incidents that occurred in games. 

September 23, 2022, 2:42 PM
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Some quick facts about Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla:

  • Joined the Celtics in 2019, but had previously worked for their G-League affiliate (the Maine Red Claws).
  • Played point guard at West Virginia from 2006-2011.
  • Is tied with former Celtics coworker Will Hardy as the youngest head coach in the NBA this season at 34-years-old.
  • Was arrested for domestic battery in 2009 for an incident that occurred in a bar in Morgantown, West Virginia. 
September 23, 2022, 2:36 PM
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