A little more detail has been revealed in why the Boston Celtics opted to suspend head coach Ime Udoka for an entire season over an alleged workplace relationship.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the independent law firm hired by the Celtics to investigate Udoka found the coach used crude language while speaking with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the same woman.
The language was apparently concerning enough given Udoka’s position of power over the woman that it played a significant role in the decision to suspend him, as ESPN reported the power dynamic was the primary finding and policy violation cited in the law firm’s report.
Initial reports indicated the relationship between Udoka, who is in a long-term relationship with actress Nia Long, and the unidentified woman to be consensual (though still improper), but a subsequent report had the woman claiming the coach made unwanted comments toward her.
Ime Udoka’s future with the Celtics is extremely uncertain
Udoka is ineligible to coach for the Celtics until June 30, 2023. In the meantime, assistant head coach Joe Mazzulla has been promoted to interim head coach, despite some past legal troubles of his own.
The situation is jarring for a Celtics team that reached the NBA Finals in Udoka’s first year as head coach last season, and it seems very possible Udoka will not be back on the Celtics sideline when his suspension is up.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told reporters last week his team wouldn’t stand in Udoka’s way if he pursued coaching opportunities with other NBA teams, but the lack of clarity regarding the situation represents its own obstacle. ESPN reported some teams have tried to gather information in hopes of getting a full explanation for Udoka’s suspension.
Even if Udoka were to remain with the Celtics until the end of his suspension, one year is an extremely long time in the NBA. This scandal could be a relationship-changer for Udoka in all directions, and the Celtics might want to know if he has made any personal changes before they’re ready to hand him back the keys again.