What did the Celtics owner and president say about Ime Udoka’s suspension?
The Celtics have finally addressed the immense controversy that has engulfed the franchise in recent days, but there are still missing pieces.
With the more questions remaining than answers, the franchise’s comments on the situation haven’t exactly shed light on anything we hadn’t seen or heard before.
Celtics’ owner Wyc Grousbeck credits month long prob for Udoka suspension
Speaking during a press conference on Friday, Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck disclosed that the organization’s decision to suspend Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 NBA season, was the result of a month-long investigation by an independent law firm, which revealed multiple violations of team policies.
“I am concerned about the situation and its impact on everybody in the Celtics’ organization,” Grousbeck said. “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.” Curiously, neither Grousbeck nor Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens had much to say in the way of details about the situation, nor did they address what specific policies Udoka violated. If you missed it, it’s been alleged that Udoka had an intimate relationship with a female member of the Celtics’ staff.
Chronology: How did the Celtics arrived at suspending Ime Udoka?
One that thing that Grousbeck made clear, was that the franchise hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into Udoka, once it had learned of a potential problem. That investigation, is understood to have ended on Wednesday, at which point the organization to the step of suspending Udoka for a full season. Due to end on June 30th, 2023 - the final day of the league year - Grousbeck explained that the suspension would also come with a “significant” financial penalty. It is understood, that Udoka is the only individual who has been disciplined.
Why did the Celtics suspend and not fire Ime Udoka?
In truth, Celtics management gave few other details about what happened or how they arrived at their decision. Indeed, all the pair would offer with regards to what Udoka’s return would require, was that it would be dealt with “at a later date.” Also worth noting was the fact that when asked directly, Stevens refused to answer whether or not Udoka would be allowed to have contact with anyone inside the organization during his suspension. Interestingly, Grousbeck didn’t shy away from the idea that they are in uncharted waters, as he defended the decision to suspend Udoka rather than cut ties. “We’re not going to get into our deliberations,” Grousbeck said. “This felt right, but there’s no clear guidelines for any of this. It’s conscience and gut feel. We collectively came to this and got there but it was not clear what to do but it was clear something substantial needed to be done, and it was.”
Where Stevens was concerned, the Celtics exec couldn’t hide his emotions as he referenced the impact that recent events had on the numerous women working across the entire organization. “It’s been a hard time,” Stevens said. “The only thing I would like to say is that I thought, and Wyc mentioned it already, we have a lot of talented women in our organization and I thought [Thursday] was really hard on them. Nobody can control Twitter speculation and rampant bulls---, but I do think we as an organization have a responsibility to support them now, because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that. 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.”
The Celtics have faith in Joe Mazzulla
As we now know, Joe Mazzulla is the man that the Celtics have turned to in the interim. The 34-year-old will now be neck and neck with Jazz coach Will Hardy for the title of youngest coach in the league, but it’s clear that Stevens and Co. have faith in their man. “Joe’s going to be in charge,” Stevens said. “It’s not an easy timing for him or the rest of the staff. But he’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person. I believe strongly in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to galvanize a room and get behind him, and his ability to organize and understand all that comes with running a team during the season.”
Not surprisingly, Stevens was asked if he considered taking over as coach. This after all is the same man who took the Celtics to three Eastern Conference finals during a eight-year tenure. Stevens, however, was adamant that he did not, though Grousbeck was quick to refer to a conversation that the pair had about the idea. “There’s a lot of factors in play of why I wouldn’t necessarily even want to do that,” Stevens said. “But I do think that - and I’ve told Joe this - I’m going to be there for him, without stepping on his toes, as much as he needs. But he doesn’t need much. I believe in that strongly.”
The Celtics defend Joe Mazzulla’s past
Incidentally, there was one slightly uncomfortable moment when Stevens was asked about Mazzulla’s two arrests while he was a student at West Virginia University. For the record, Mazzulla was arrested in 2008 for underage drinking and aggravated assault and would later plead guilty followed by the payment of a fine. There was also a charge of domestic battery in 2009 at a Morgantown bar. In that situation, the conflict was settled out of court. For his part, Stevens doubled down on the idea that he “thoroughly” vetted Mazzulla when he hired him in 2019.
“I will tell you this: I believe strongly in Joe’s substantiveness as a person,” Stevens said. “I believe strongly, and he’ll tell you, he’s been very open with me about how those moments impacted him in every which way and you can see it in the way he carries himself. You could see that for a long time. We’ve had years to get to know him. I believe strongly that that probably shaped him into who he is today in a really, really good way. But he’ll be the first to tell you, he’s 110% accountable for that, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I believe in him.”
Celtics players are not happy with Ime Udoka’s situation
When questioned about the players themselves, Grousbeck disclosed that both he and Stevens had met with the team ahead of training camp, which starts next week. “Very concerned,” is the way in which Grousbeck described the players’ feelings about all that has occurred so far. “It’s not a welcome development,” Grousbeck said. “But they also, I felt, have energy and focus and commitment and drive to really accomplish great things hopefully this season. So that’s the commitment I’m feeling from the players and I bet, based on last year and based on everything we know about them, I think that we will be fulfilled.”