The team announced Thursday night that it had suspended Ime Udoka for what would have been his second season as a head coach, citing "violations of team policy."
"A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date," the team said in its announcement. "The suspension takes effect immediately."
Without getting into details, Udoka apologized for his actions.
"I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down," he wrote, via ESPN's Malika Andrews. "I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team's decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment."
ESPN, citing sources, reported late Wednesday night that Udoka was facing disciplinary action that was expected to include a significant suspension for his role in a consensual, intimate relationship with a female member of the franchise's staff.
The relationship reportedly has been considered a violation of the organization's code of conduct guidelines.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Thursday morning that Udoka was likely to be suspended for the entire 2022-2023 season. Thursday night, citing ESPN sources,he said assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would serve as the interim head coach of the Celtic.
NBC Sports Boston’s Michael Holley said it’s important to note this appears to be a team issue -- not an NBA issue.
'Something very serious'
"The news about discipline for Udoka is significant because you usually don’t see this in the NBA," Holley said. "Coaches are fined sometimes for comments about officials, or if they’re going to be suspended it’s a game or two, but news about a significant suspension for team violations suggests something very serious.”
Holley adds that this does not appear to be a suspension being handed down by the National Basketball League.
"This is a team issue, it is not a league issue. For example if we were talking about tampering or we were talking about something of that nature, something global, then the league would handle it," Holley explained. "But the language here suggests that this is something that the team, the organization is going to take care of, and the fact that we keep hearing ‘significant’ tells you that it’s fairly serious.”
Is Udoka's job safe?
Before the team announced his suspension, reports indicated that Udoka's job was safe. But the Celtics said Thursday night that a decision had not yet been made about his future with the team.
Losing Udoka for an extended period of time would be a tremendous blow to a Boston team that thrived in his debut season as head coach. The Celtics finished the 2021-22 campaign with a 51-31 record to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, then made it to the NBA Finals where they were defeated by the Golden State Warriors in six games.
The C's will begin training camp later this month and begin the preseason on Oct. 2. The regular season opener is scheduled for Oct. 18 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
Udoka has been in a high-profile relationship with actress Nia Long for more than a decade. They have been engaged for years and have a son together.
Celtics fans who had been hopeful after last season's Finals appearance were shocked by the situation.
"It's not exactly what you wanted to hear this close to the start of the season," said Celtics fan Armen Grigorian.
"It certainly seems like a drastic punishment, given the level of other punishments that we've seen in the NBA," said John Reilly.
"If it was consensual, I don't think he should've been suspended. I know there's an issue of him being in a position of power, but you know, sometimes you have to leave it to the adults," said Darrien Higgins.
"I was shocked," admitted former Celtics guard Eddie House, who won a championship with the team in 2008. "I actually learned about it last night and I was like 'What?' I thought it was a joke."
House hopes the players can mute out the noise for their sake this upcoming season.
"I think they should be on autopilot. I don't think they need any more motivation than what happened last year. I think that everybody has something to prove coming into this season," said House.