LOS ANGELES – The Boston Celtics suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 National Basketball Association (NBA) season on Thursday for “violations of team policies”.
“A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the team said in a statement. “The suspension takes effect immediately.”
The Celtics did not specify what Udoka’s policy violations were.
ESPN and The Athletic reported that the 45-year-old Nigerian-American had a consensual relationship with a female member of the Celtics staff that broke the franchise’s code of conduct.
The punishment, among the harshest ever issued to an NBA head coach, comes with the Celtics’ pre-season training camp due to open next week.
In a statement obtained by ESPN, Udoka said he accepted the Celtics’ decision.
“I want to apologise to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organisation, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said. “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.”
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will step in as interim coach for the 2022-23 campaign, ESPN reported.
Udoka’s top assistant last season, Will Hardy, departed in June to become coach of the Utah Jazz.
Udoka replaced Brad Stevens as coach last season after Stevens was promoted to president of basketball operations following the departure of Danny Ainge.
Udoka played seven seasons in the NBA, the last four with San Antonio before his playing career ended in 2011.
He had stints as an assistant coach with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn before taking charge of the Celtics in June 2021 and had an impressive debut season.
Last summer, he was part of a wave of Black coaches hired to head coaching roles, including several who, like him, had been assistants for many years. The NBA has long been criticised for having mostly white head coaches in a league mostly with Black players.