June 25, 2024

Celtics players ‘never got over’ the way Ime Udoka was fired for affair

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.”

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Head Coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics high fives Sam Hauser #30 after Game One of the 2022 NBA Finals on June 2, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California.NBAE via Getty Images

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.

The Celtics exposed the matter when they announced Udoka’s one-year suspension for the 2022-23 season as a result of the investigation.

The suspension came just a week before training camp.

Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck, along with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, did not share further details about the situation for privacy reasons.

At the time, Udoka apologized to Celtics players, the organization, fans and his family for “letting them down” in a statement shared on Twitter by ESPN’s Malika Andrews.

Udoka and Long split shortly after the alleged affair became public, and continue to co-parent their 11-year-old son Kez.

Boston named Mazzulla, who was an assistant at the time, as interim head coach — only to remove the tag and promote him to head coach in February, when the Celtics were riding high as the No. 1 seed in the East.

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