It has been a roller-coaster week for the Boston Celtics, and that ride doesn’t seem to be trending upwards anytime soon. Celtics head coach Ime Udoka receiving a season-long suspension for violating organizational policies and engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a female staff member.
While the details of what happened between Udoka and this staffer aren’t clear, the Celtics will be without their head coach for the entire 2022-23 season. In his place, Joe Mazzulla will be promoted to Boston’s interim coach.
Although Mazzulla has a controversial past, the front office is on board with him and made that clear during Friday’s presser:
Brad Stevens on Joe Mazzulla's past transgressions: "When I was considering hiring him as an assistant, I vetted him thoroughly. I believe strongly in his substantiveness as a person. He's been very open with me on how those incidents impacted him."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 23, 2022
With Udoka punished and Celtics management finished elaborating on the situation, where does that leave Boston heading into 2022-23? Here are a few noteworthy takeaways from the Udoka fallout and what it means to all involved.
3) The Celtics’ current coaching staff is not final
Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens made sure everyone knew he wouldn’t be taking over coaching duties with Udoka sidelined. However, the door is still open for other coaches to join the Celtics.
According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, Boston may have interest in adding someone with head-coaching experience to the staff before the start of the season. There have been a few rumors linking former head coaches like Mark Jackson, Stan Van Gundy, and Frank Vogel to Boston recently. If Udoka eventually resigns or has his punishment elevated to a firing, the likelihood of these more experienced candidates taking over for Mazzulla is certainly something to consider.
Essentially, like most things with the Celtics right now, things are still up in the air.
2) Ime Udoka may have coached his last game for the Celtics, but not his last in the NBA
Udoka's suspension comes with a "significant financial penalty", Wyc Grousbeck says. He adds: there were multiple violations of Celtics' conduct rules by Udoka.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 23, 2022
With that in mind, the 45-year-old coach could take his talents elsewhere for a hefty new contract when his suspension is up.
There’s no shortage of teams who would be interested in hiring a coach fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, and NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski agrees:
"In talking to some other organizations today, he may become a candidate or a coach of interest for other jobs that might open or might become open during the season or certainly next season."@wojespn on Ime Udoka's coaching future in the NBApic.twitter.com/jdEcEmazUf
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 23, 2022
The Brooklyn Nets look dysfunctional with Steve Nash at the helm, so perhaps they’d be willing to bring in Udoka next season. Plus, the former San Antonio Spur has coached alongside Gregg Popovich before, which gives him impressive experience.
The relationship between Udoka and Boston may have soured to the point where it’s unsalvageable, but that doesn’t mean he cannot lead another NBA team in the future. Of course, this could also depend on just how bad his transgressions were, which we simply do not know enough about yet.
1) The sky is falling, yet there’s still a chance for calm
Regardless of this terrible month for the Celtics, basketball has to be played in October with the upcoming 2022-23 NBA season.
Will the C’s look lost at the beginning of the regular season under a new regime? It’s certainly possible — especially given the injury update on Robert Williams III that will have him out for a fair chunk of games.
Yet, Jayson Tatum reportedly believes in his new coach and won’t let that deter him from getting the C’s back on track:
Jayson Tatum has built a bond with Joe Mazzulla and has seen his growth as a coach 💯 pic.twitter.com/fbFvP290FG
— Celtics Nation (@CelticsNationCP) September 23, 2022
And if this tweet that Jaylen Brown cryptically liked means anything, it’s that the Celtics aren’t in panic mode:
When you think everything is falling apart boyyyy when I tell you everything is falling into place 😌🙏🏾
— Tc2 (@TeaCooper2) September 22, 2022
Despite a rough offseason, Boston is still coming off its first Finals appearance in 12 years. With Malcolm Brogdon signed, the C’s have a roster that can make it back to the championship too. It’s just a matter of whether or not they’ll be able to drown out all the noise around them.
No matter what, Boston will have its strength tested much earlier than anyone previously thought. We should see what the C’s are made of soon.