Celtics coach Ime Udoka is facing a suspension for a violation of team policy, a league source confirmed late Wednesday night. The source said the discipline will likely be decided shortly, but declined to elaborate on Udoka’s situation.
The Athletic reported early Thursday morning that Udoka, 45, had an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female team staff member. Udoka has been engaged to the actress Nia Long since 2015, and the couple has an 11-year-old son.
According to ESPN, the Celtics are considering a suspension that could last as long as one year.
After a challenging start in which the Celtics appeared in danger of missing the playoffs last season, Udoka led the team to the NBA Finals in his first season as an NBA head coach and finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting. He has gained the trust and respect of his players with his demanding, disciplined style that was built on accountability.
It’s unclear which Celtics assistant would fill in for Udoka if he is suspended. Will Hardy, Boston’s lead assistant last season, would have been the obvious choice, but in June he was named head coach of the Jazz. Ben Sullivan guided Boston’s Las Vegas summer league team in July and was an assistant with the Bucks when they won the NBA title in 2021. Joe Mazzulla, viewed as a rising star in coaching, interviewed for Utah’s opening before eventually being promoted to a bench role on Udoka’s staff this summer.
After coming within two wins of an NBA title last June, the Celtics added veterans Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to their young, talented roster that is built around First Team All-NBA pick Jayson Tatum. Boston subsequently became the betting favorite to win the championship.
But the past few weeks have been bumpy.
Gallinari tore his ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier and is expected to miss the entire season. Then on Tuesday, the Celtics announced that center Robert Williams, who missed a month last spring after tearing his meniscus, will undergo a second left knee surgery and be sidelined for 4-6 weeks.
Now, Udoka’s situation has made things even more unsettled. The Celtics are scheduled to hold media day on Monday before opening training camp at the Auerbach Center on Tuesday.