The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the upcoming 2022-23 season, the team announced Thursday night.
The team cited violations of team policies in its announcement. Sources previously told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Udoka had an intimate relationship with a female franchise staff member.
The suspension is effective immediately and a decision on Udoka’s future with the organization will be made later, the team said.
“I want to apologize to our players, our fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down. I’m sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation and I accepts the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment,” Udoka said in a statement to ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
The one-season suspension for Udoka is largely unprecedented for a serving NBA head coach.
The Celtics have named assistant coach Joe Mazzulla the interim head coach, sources have told ESPN.
Udoka’s top assistant coach, Will Hardy, left the team in June to become coach of the Utah Jazz.
Udoka joined the Celtics last summer after spending time with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach following his NBA playing career.
He replaced Brad Stevens as coach. Stevens moved upstairs to become president of Boston basketball operations after his predecessor in that role, Danny Ainge, chose to leave the organization.
In his first season as coach, Udoka oversaw a remarkable turnaround at Boston, which saw the Celtics go from under .500 in late January to season-ending with a 28-7 record in their last 35. matches. They then wrote an impressive run through the Eastern Conference playoffs, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years.
Udoka is the fifth coach in the past 25 years to reach the NBA Finals in his first season as head coach and the first since Nick Nurse in 2019.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he also became the first rookie coach to win more than 7 games in his first postseason. Udoka led Boston to victories over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Finals in seven games before Boston lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games in the NBA Finals.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.