The Boston Celtics on Thursday suspended coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for unspecified “team policy violations,” just months after he led the team to the NBA Finals in his first year on the job. .
A person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly said that Udoka had an inappropriate relationship with a team employee that was considered a violation of the team’s organizational guidelines.
The Celtics have not said who will take over for Udoka during his suspension. Wyc Grousbeck, majority owner of the Celtics, declined to comment. A Celtics spokesman also declined to comment.
Udoka spent nine seasons as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, and Nets before the Celtics hired him for their first head coaching job in June 2021. The Celtics lost to Golden State in the NBA Finals. NBA this June.
Udoka’s suspension comes during a challenging month for the NBA
On Tuesday, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards was fined $40,000 for making homophobic comments in a post on Instagram, where he has more than 1 million followers.
Last week, the NBA said an investigation had uncovered a year-long pattern of inappropriate behavior by Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. The investigative report says Sarver used racial slurs and treated female employees unfairly, among other findings, for more than a decade. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sarver $10 million, the maximum allowed, and suspended him for one year. But amid backlash over the perceived leniency of the punishment, Sarver announced Wednesday that he planned to sell both teams.
The Suns and Celtics are scheduled to host media days for the 2022-23 season on Monday.
Udoka, who is from Portland, Oregon, had a traveling career as a basketball player, bouncing abroad before joining the Portland Trail Blazers for the 2006-7 season as their starting small forward. For the next four seasons he played with San Antonio and the Sacramento Kings.
Last summer, he was part of a wave of black coaches hired for head-coaching roles, including several who, like him, had been assistants for many years. The NBA has long been criticized for having mostly white head coaches in a league with mostly black players.
In mid-January, Boston was 21-22 and seemingly destined for a disappointing season. But the Celtics won 28 of their last 35 games to close out the regular season and earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They swept the Nets in the first round of the playoffs and then eliminated the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. In the Eastern Conference finals, Boston beat the Miami Heat.
The trip to the NBA Finals was Boston’s first appearance since 2010. Udoka placed fourth in voting for the Coach of the Year Award. Will Hardy, who was Udoka’s main assistant last season, was recently hired as the new coach of the Utah Jazz.
Tania Ganguli contributed to this report.