BOSTON (AFP) – The Boston Celtics suspended Amy Odoka for a year and banned the coach who led them to the NBA Finals last spring for the entire 2022-23 season over what two people familiar with the matter said was an inappropriate relationship. with a member of the organization.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team has not released those details publicly. In a statement released Thursday night after a full day of controversy over the terms of the penalty, the Celtics said Odoka had violated team policies and left open the possibility that a longer term could follow.
“A decision about his future with the Celtics after this season will be taken at a later time,” the team said.
One of the people who spoke to the AP said assistant coach Joe Mazzola would take over as interim coach. The champions of the Eastern Conference Defenders are scheduled to hold a media day on Monday and open a training camp on Tuesday in preparation for the October 18 season.
In a statement released by ESPN, Udoka apologized “to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down.”
“I am sorry to put the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision,” he said. “Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment.”
Long assisted Odoka in his first job as an NBA coach, and led the Boston team to a record 51-31 last season – scoring 26-6 in their last 32 games. The Celtics beat Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Miami on their way to the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
The developments stunned the NBA and shook the team that was among the favorites to compete for the championship this season. This will be the unprecedented 18th title for the franchise.
But in Boston, the story was reminiscent of the change that occurred across town in 2020, when Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for his role in a signal-stealing scandal at his previous job, with the Houston Astros. Instead, the two sides parted.
After finishing last under Ron Roenke in the pandemic shortened season, Cora was reassigned a year later and was welcomed back.
It’s not clear if Odoka and the Celtics will be excited about their reunion.
The 45-year-old Udoka spent the greater part of his NBA career playing for San Antonio and then joined the staff of Tottenham manager Greg Popovich as an assistant. A member of the Tottenham staff from 2012 until 2019, Odoka won it all at 14, and quickly found his way into the shortlists for key open coaching jobs.
He spent the 2019-20 season in Philadelphia and the 2020-21 season in Brooklyn before the Celtics appointed him in June 2021 to succeed Brad Stevens – who had moved to the front office. In the first year, Odoka finished fourth in the vote for Coach of the Year, and the Celtics came two wins away from the championship.
“The future is bright and we’re just getting started,” Odoka said after the NBA Finals.
The bombshell on the eve of training camp is the latest development heading into what was supposed to be a promising season for the NBA’s most decorated franchise.
The Celtics boosted their runner-up roster by acquiring goalkeeper Malcolm Brogdon in a deal from Indiana, then added veteran forward Danilo Galinari as a free agent. But last month, Gallinari ruptured the ACL in his left knee and will lose next season.
Robert Williams center, a key part of Boston’s defense plan and who played through injuries during the playoffs last season, still has knee pain and is expected to miss the start of the season.
The Celtics were also mentioned in speculation about a new home for Brooklyn striker Kevin Durant, a perennial All-Star player who requested – and then backed out – a request to trade. Although the talks came to nothing, they did raise questions about Boston’s commitment to young star Jaylene Brown.
It’s also the second major disciplinary situation in as many weeks in the NBA: Commissioner Adam Silver decided last week to suspend Robert Sarver – owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury – for a year and fined him $10 million after his investigation showed. Disturbing behavior pattern in the workplace, including abusive and racist language. Sarver said Wednesday that he plans to sell his teams.
Mazzola interviewed the Utah Jazz as coach this summer, a position that eventually passed to Will Hardy—one of Udoka’s assistants at Boston last season.
Mazzola’s only previous experience as a head coach is a two-year stint in Division Two at Vermont in West Virginia, where he went 43-17 and climbed to the NCAA Championship in his second season. Mazola, a New England native from Rhode Island, played for West Virginia and was an assistant for the Celtics in the J-League before taking up his role at Vermont State, then was hired by the Celtics back in June 2019 to be part of the Stevens crew.
Mazzulla’s last game at Fairmont State was against Mercyhurst. His first real game for the Celtics will draw more attention: Boston is set to host longtime rival Philadelphia for the opening game, where he will present a year-long tribute to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.
Reynolds reported from Miami.
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