The former Boston head coach was suspended for the season for having an inappropriate relationship with a female staff member.
In announcing the promotion of Joe Mazzulla to permanent head coach this week, the Celtics noted that Mazzulla was replacing Ime Udoka, who was suspended for the season for having an inappropriate relationship with a female teammate. Udoka is no longer employed by Boston in any capacity, a source told Sports Illustrated.
The move was widely anticipated. Mazzulla, who took over on an interim basis days before training camp, has thrived in the head coaching role. Boston entered the All-Star break at an NBA-best 42-17, earning Mazzulla and his staff the opportunity to coach Giannis’ team in the NBA All-Star game.
At Saturday’s All-Star media availability, Mazzulla, who was one of the few holdovers on Brad Stevens’ staff, expressed gratitude for what he learned working for Udoka last season.
“He didn’t have to keep it going when he was hired,” Mazzulla said. “He trusted people. I appreciated that. I’ve only worked for two people in the NBA, that’s Brad and Ime. If I didn’t have both of them, I wouldn’t be as comfortable in this situation as I am now.”
Mazzulla said Udoka’s ability to remain calm in difficult situations is an effort to have in the job.
“He just had a great story about him,” Mazzulla said. “Even when things weren’t going well for us as a team, he never overreacted. He never shied away from who he was. He did a great job of staying balanced as long as we were a team. He was a players’ coach. He saw the game from a player’s perspective. That’s what I wanted to see. It really helped me get into relationship management and generation.”
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Udoka, 45, is expected to make a significant impact this season. Udoka was 51-31 in one season with Boston, engineering a second-half turnaround that took the Celtics into the NBA Finals. Several teams have conducted extensive research into the reasons for Udoka’s suspension, sources told SI. Brooklyn was in advanced discussions with Udoka to replace Steve Nash earlier this season; the Nets eventually backed away from those talks.
Jayson Tatum, who earned his first All-NBA nod with Udoka last season, said he spoke with Udoka a few times during the season. “Nothing crazy, just checking in,” Tatum said. “Telling me to keep up the good work,” Tatum said he gained a lot from their short time together.
“It was tough for everybody involved,” Tatum said. “Whatever happened, happened. That had nothing to do with me. I can’t remove the relationship between me and him. And the impact he had on us last season. I love Coach K, I love Brad, I love (Mazzulla), I love all those guys. It’s just a different kind of relationship I had with Ime. He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had.”
“I have a great relationship with Joe. I love everything he’s doing. I am very happy for him. Brad helped me lead the NBA … I have a different perspective and respect for every coach I’ve had at different times in my life.”
Jaylen Brown said Udoka “helped us get over that hump” last season.
“I want to see him back on his feet,” Brown said. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t feel bad saying that. Of course, it won’t be in a Boston uniform. Joe has now been promoted to head coach. I want to see all parties win. If the Celtics are doing well, I want to see Ime (do well).