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 incident time, but in 2009, he was arrested for domestic battery after an 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 that he believes “strongly explained 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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