BOSTON (AP) — The reigning Eastern Conference champion, Boston Celtics Suspended coach Ime Udoka After a months-long investigation by an outside law firm that found multiple violations of team policies but didn’t point to a larger cultural problem of sexual misconduct, owner Wyc Grousbeck said Friday.
“We go to great lengths … to lead the organization with the central core value of respect and freedom in the workplace from harassment or unwanted attention,” Grousbeck said at a news conference. “It feels very unique to me. That is my personal belief. But I have to check that.”
Neither Grousbeck nor basketball operations president Brad Stevens declined to elaborate on the details of the violations or the private report that was served to the team two days ago. But a person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not made public, told The Associated Press that it was an inappropriate relationship with a woman at the organization.
Udoka’s multiple violations involved a woman, a Celtics spokesman said Friday. No one else in the organization is being disciplined, Grousbeck said, adding that the team will be vigilant to ensure Udoka’s actions are not a signal that there is a bigger problem.
“Personally, I don’t think they’re a deeper signal,” Grousbeck said. “But we will be talking – personally – to members of the organization to make sure that’s the case.”
Udoka, a freshman coach three months away from a trip to the NBA Finals, was suspended less than a week before training camp for a team began is considered one of the favorites for overall victory this season. Assistant Joe Mazzulla was appointed interim manager until June 30, 2023; The Celtics say they are undecided beyond Udoka’s future.
Stevens got emotional while discussing the scandal’s impact on the team — particularly the women who have been flagged as possibly involved on social media. The team reached out to staff to offer support.
“We have many talented women in our organization. I thought yesterday was really tough for her,” Stevens said. “Nobody can control Twitter speculation, widespread (phrase) but I think we have a responsibility as an organization to make sure we’re there to support them now. Because a lot of people have been unfairly implicated.”
Grousbeck said the team learned of the problem earlier this summer and immediately hired an outside law firm to investigate. After receiving the report, Grousbeck met with Udoka and he “expressed acceptance and appreciation for the way this was handled”.
Grousbeck declined to say whether the suspension was unpaid, but confirmed it carries a “significant fine.” A one-year suspension is unusual but not unprecedented for a professional sports coach, but the lack of public details about Udoka’s behavior prompted some – including Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce – to question whether it was too strict.
Grousbeck disagreed, noting that Udoka accepted the punishment and apologized.
“Personally, I believe this is fair and reasonable, backed by extensive research, evidence and facts,” the owner said. “It was clear that something essential had to be done. And it was.”
Mazzulla, 34, led West Virginia to a win at the 2007 NIT tournament and a riot over ninth-placed Duke at the NCAAs the next year. His only head coaching experience was a two-year stint from 2017-2019 at Division II Fairmount State in West Virginia.
“Joe will be in charge. The timing isn’t easy for him or the rest of the staff, but he’s an exceptionally smart and talented individual,” said Stevens, adding that he hadn’t seriously considered returning to the bench himself. “It’s going to be an incredible challenge, but I have great faith in the team and the coaching staff who will take to the pitch on Tuesday. It’s not what we expected but I’m very confident in her.”
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