By Terrance Turner
Sept. 22, 2022
Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka has been suspended for the entire 2022-23 NBA season over a workplace relationship. Udoka had an intimate, consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff, sources told The Athletic on Wednesday. The conduct is considered a violation of the team’s guidelines; Udoka now faces a yearlong suspension.
Sources quoted by ESPN did not believe that Udoka’s job is in jeopardy. But no final decision has been made on Udoka’s long-term future. Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim coach, ESPN reports.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said the organization’s decision to suspend Udoka for the entire season came after an investigation by an independent law firm uncovered multiple violations of team policies.
“I am concerned about the situation and its impact on everybody in the Celtics’ organization,” Grousbeck said during a news conference Friday morning at the team’s practice facility. “I do hope this represents the beginning of a new chapter, and a chance to turn the page and move forward with things, to some extent, resolved.”
Udoka, 45, joined the Celtics last summer after spending time with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach. He took the Celtics from under .500 in late January to closing the season with a 28-7 record over their final 35 games. They finished with a 51-31 record.
The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference playoffs. They won series against the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat before reaching their first NBA Finals in 12 years. Udoka became the first NBA coach since 2019 to reach the NBA Finals in his first season as head coach. But the Celtics lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors.
Now, Udoka could be disciplined for his workplace romance — which is all the more scandalous given his engagement to actress Nia Long. The two have been together since 2010 and share a son. They got engaged in May 2015. But Long (famous for films like The Best Man and Soul Food) is ambivalent about marriage.
“Love is complicated; let’s just start there,” she told Essence in 2020. “And then you start a marriage, which — I’ve never been married. And there’s a reason for that because I don’t know that I need to say ‘I do’ to prove to you that I love you. But also, what does marriage really [mean]… that you own me now and I own you? I don’t get that part.”
“I understand the religious aspect of marriage. That is beautiful and it’s fantastical and it’s dreamy and it’s every girl’s fantasy,” she said. “But I don’t know that I need that to feel like I’m in a partnership that’s working.”