UPDATED: 12:00 P.M. ET to reflect Celtics leadership speaking out.
The suspension of Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka for the entire upcoming season and possibly beyond leaves the defending Eastern Conference champions without the man who took them to the NBA Finals in his first year on the job.
But amid bombshell reports from pro basketball insiders about the nature of Udoka’s alleged transgressions, questions linger about exactly what he may have done that could possibly cost him his job after leading his team within two games of winning an NBA title.
At first, NBA insiders were vague in their initial breaking news reports on Twitter, united in the claim that Udoka had an intimate and consensual relationship with a Celtics staffer. Doing so, they claimed, was a violation of the Celtics organization’s code of conduct for employees. As a result, ESPN senior NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that his sources told him Udoka was facing a “significant suspension,” a report that was ultimately confirmed Thursday night when the Celtics publicly acknowledged for the first time that the coach had committed unspecified “violations of team policy.”
The announcement suggested that Udoka’s job was in serious jeopardy.
Udoka, for his part, issued an apology shortly after the Celtics announced his suspension and took full accountability for “putting the team in this difficult situation.”
Udoka’s statement was issued via Front Office Sports, a multiplatform media brand that repeated the narrative that Udoka had a “consensual relationship with a female staffer.”
But according to Shams Charania, an NBA insider with the Athletic sports news website, there is much more to the story than that.
Some members of the Celtics organization first became aware of the relationship in July, sources said. At that time, team leadership was led to believe by both parties that the relationship was consensual. But sources said that the woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her — leading the team to launch a set of internal interviews.
The allegation of “unwanted comments” contradicts that “consensual” narrative that had been originally reported by both Wojnarowski and Charania in their initial breaking news tweets overnight into Thursday morning.
But it remains unclear exactly what “violations” — plural — Udoka is guilty of committing, since the Athletic only mentioned the “unwanted comments.” The development promoted several questions: Did each comment constitute a violation? Is there another violation that is not being reported? Is it a violation of Celtics policy to have a consensual relationship with a staffer?
On Friday, Celtics leadership addressed the situation during a press conference by admonishing the speculative media reports that ensued following the tweets from Wojnarowski and Charania, according to a report by NBC Boston.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said the team hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into what he called a “potential situation” and said “a significant financial penalty” will be in Udoka’s future. He also emphasized the coach committed “multiple violations” of team policy, though he didn’t say exactly what they were.
With that said, the Athletic’s report did provide a semblance of clarity and helps address the lingering question of why the Celtics disciplined Udoka and not the female staffer with whom he is alleged to have had a relationship. The report suggests the female staffer was a victim and not a willing participant in the unspecified “unwanted comments” in a situation that the Celtics have been aware of for at least two months, according to the timeline provided by the Athletic.
In the meantime, Udoka is not expected to resign, according to NBA reporter Chris Haynes, suggesting he is ready to serve his punishment and return next season.
The Celtics begin preseason play next month and return most of the team that fell short against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals just three months ago.
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