Los Angeles— Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said Friday the NBA team’s one-season suspension of coach Ime Udoka was “well warranted and appropriate.”
Grousbeck and Celtics executive Brad Stevens offered no further details in a press conference on the team policy violations that led to Udoka’s ban.
But Grousbeck said the punishment was the result of a months-long investigation by an independent law firm, brought in after the Celtics learned of what he called a “situation” affecting the franchise.
“I personally feel that this is well warranted and appropriate, backed by substantial research and evidence and facts, and so I’m standing by the decision and Ime has accepted it,” Grousbeck said.
Grousbeck cited privacy reasons in declining to comment on reports by ESPN, The Athletic and other US media outlets that Udoka had an improper intimate relationship with a female member of the Celtics staff, violating the club’s code of conduct.
“I’m not going to comment on the investigation, but we found there was enough there to take action,” Grousbeck said, adding that no one else in the organization is facing penalty or reprimand.
Grousbeck said the decision to suspend Udoka, rather than fire him, for “multiple violations” of team policies “felt right.”
“There’s no clear guidelines for any of this,” he said. “This is really a conscience and gut feel and being here 20 years and I’m responsible for the decision, ultimately.
“It was clear that something substantial needed to be done, in my view, and it was.”
Players ‘very concerned’
There is still no certainty that Udoka will coach the club again after his suspension ends on June 30, 2023.
In announcing the punishment the team said that decision would be made at a later date, and Grousbeck said criteria on his possible return had not been decided.
Celtics open training camp on Tuesday in preparation for the October 18 start to the 2022-23 NBA season.
Stevens, the former Celtics coach who moved into the front office last season following the departure of Danny Ainge, confirmed that assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would take over head coaching duties this season.
Grousbeck said that he and Stevens had met with Celtics players to discuss the matter.
“I would say in general they are very concerned about this,” he said. “But they also, I felt, have energy and focus and commitment and drive to really accomplish great things this season.”
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.
Under Udoka’s guidance Boston developed the top defense in the NBA and closed last season on a 28-7 run.
They beat the star-studded Brooklyn Nets in the first round, then ousted the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the second round.
They dispatched the Miami Heat in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
They fell in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the championship series.