Ime Udoka saga still affecting Celtics players
Celtics players are reportedly unhappy with the organization’s decision to dismiss their head coach following an alleged affair with a female team staff member
Former Celtics coach Ime Udoka’s reported affair is still haunting the Celtics as Boston sits on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat.
Celtics players are reportedly unhappy with the organization’s decision to dismiss their head coach following an alleged affair with a female team staff member — and feel as though they were left in the dark, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“This locker room never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal as head coach,” he said during Monday’s pre-game show, before Denver swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
“These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction. There were a lot of the people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction. That it was an HR matter.
“I think for this team and talking with management, they never got any more answers than the public was getting on this. That doesn’t mean they haven’t accepted Joe Mazzulla as head coach, but this is a team that really believed in Ime Udoka and had a strong connection with him.”
Udoka — who was in a 13-year relationship with actress Nia Long at the time — was entering his second season as head coach after he led Boston to the NBA Finals in 2022, when it fell to the Warriors in six games.
“I think there were a couple instances this season where a lot of that angst resurfaced,” Wojnarowski said. “First, when the Brooklyn Nets nearly hired Udoka as head coach, and then when the Rockets did. Certainly those were factors.”
Houston hired Udoka as their head coach in April, following rumors of a potential pairing with the Nets.
Wojnarowski previously reported that members of the NBA league office determined “there was nothing that they found to be disqualifying to work again in the NBA.”
In September 2022, Udoka was suspended following a months-long investigation by an outside law firm, which found multiple violations of “team policies” — reportedly by having an improper relationship with a female team staff member.
Meanwhile, Marcus Smart pushed back on Wojnarowski's report Tuesday, however, insisting that Udoka's absence (and head coach Joe Mazzulla's presence) isn't the reason Boston trails the Miami Heat 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. "No, no. Regardless of if Ime was here or not, we’re the ones out there playing," Smart told reporters Tuesday morning in Miami ahead of Game 4 at Kaseya Center. "We've got to go out there and play. Joe does a great job of putting us in the right positions. They come up with a game plan. It’s on us.
"There's only so much that any coach can do for you out there as a player. At some point, you've just got to look at yourself and figure it out."