An investigation by an independent law firm commissioned by the Boston Celtics found that head coach Ime Udoka used crude language toward a female subordinate before starting his alleged inappropriate workplace relationship with her, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Udoka was recently over what the team officially called "violations of team policies."
When the Celtics first learned of the relationship between Udoka and the staff member in July, they were led to believe it was consensual, according to The Athletic. However, when the woman accused Udoka of sending unwanted messages, the team commissioned an independent investigation.
The findings, which led the team to suspend Udoka for the entirety of the season, had been a tightly guarded secret. During their Sept. 22 press conference on the matter, neither Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck nor president of basketball operations Brad Stevens would discuss specifics. Likewise, .
"The initial reaction was literally a state of shock," Marcus Smart said. "We couldn't believe what we were hearing and especially at the time we were hearing it right before media day. It's hitting us from all angles. We're trying to figure it out just like everybody else. Everybody was at the meeting, we wanted to know and they told us what they knew and we go from there. It's frustrating from all ends of not knowing, not understanding because you don't know. So just try to focus on the things you can control."
We now have more information. Udoka's text contained language that was "especially concerning coming from a workplace superior" and will make it difficult for him to ever return as the team's coach, per Wojnarowski's reporting. In addition to the words he used, the power imbalance between himself and the staff member contributed to the suspension.
The Celtics have promoted assistant coach Joe Mazzulla to interim head coach. The 34-year old has only three years of NBA coaching experience and is two years younger than veteran forward Al Horford. He also has a domestic battery charge on his resume from his time in college at West Virginia. Stevens said he personally vetted Mazzulla for the job when he was hired as an assistant in 2019, and Mazzulla addressed the incident at media day.
"I've made mistakes," Mazzulla said. "I'm not perfect. I've hurt people and I've had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man to learn from and become a better person. That's what I've tried to focus on. How can I recreate my identity as a person, how can I rely on my faith and how can I have a positive impact on the people around me."
"I'm not the same person that I was. As you grow as a person you're constantly having to build an identity. I didn't have an identity at a certain point in my life for whatever reason. It's how can I develop an identity, how can I find a foundation -- which for me is my faith -- and then how can I impact people positively around me and that's something that I really learned throughout my life."