The Boston Celtics plan to discipline coach Ime Udoka, likely with a suspension, because of an inappropriate relationship with a member of the organization, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the reigning Eastern Conference champions have not released any details publicly. The exact punishment, including the length of the possible suspension, has not been determined.
One of the people who spoke to the AP said the Celtics have decided to have assistant coach Joe Mazzulla take over the team on an interim basis for the duration of Udoka’s suspension.
ESPN was the first outlet to report for the first time Wednesday night that a suspension for breaking team rules was being considered. ESPN and The Athletic later reported that the Celtics’ investigation revolves around whether Udoka had an inappropriate relationship with a woman who is part of the organization.
Losing Udoka would be a significant blow to a team that is widely considered among the favorites to contend for the NBA title this season after falling just two games short of winning the championship last season — Udoka’s first year managing the NBA. Boston.
Boston moved early in the market by acquiring Malcolm Brogdon in a trade with Indiana to bolster its already potent shooting guard roster. He also signed veteran forward Danilo Gallinari in free agency.
But Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee last month and will miss next season. Center Robert Williams, a key player in the team’s defensive structure, suffers from knee discomfort and it is not believed that he will be able to play at the start of the season.
They also sounded like a destination for a possible trade of Kevin Durant, the star of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant asked to be transferred but ended up backing down.
The Celtics start their training camp on Tuesday. Mazzulla was interviewed for the Utah Jazz coaching job this summer, a job that was eventually landed by Will Hardy, who was Udoka’s assistant in Boston last season.
Udoka’s other assistant coaches are Damon Stoudemire, Ben Sullivan, Aaron Miles and Tony Dobbins.
Udoka had a brilliant first season as Celtics coach, finishing the regular season 51-31 — going 26-6 in the last 32 games — and guiding Boston past Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami in his en route to the NBA Finals. The Celtics lost the title series to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
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