Ime Udoka, head coach of NBA team the Boston Celtics, has been suspended for the entirety of the 2022-23 season after he was found to have acted in violation of team policies related to an improper relationship with a female member of the organization.
The team added in a statement that a decision will be made about his long-term future at a later date.
Per a report by The Athletic, team officials first became aware of the relationship in July but were satisfied from discussions with both parties that it was consensual.
However, it is understood that the woman has since made a range of allegations against Udoka – said to involve “unwanted comments” – which prompted the Celtics hierarchy to launch an internal investigation, and which concluded with their decision to suspended him for upcoming season which begins in October.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said in a statement after his suspension was confirmed by team officials.
“I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment.”
Udoka, who is 45 and has been in a long-term relationship with actor Nia Long, with whom he has one child, guided the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season, where they were defeated by the Golden State Warriors.
The news of Udoka’s suspension was met with accusations of racism from US sports analyst Stephen A. Smith, who said that he is being more harshly treated on account of his ethnicity.
“I got news for you America: There are plenty of white folks in professional sports that’s doing their thing. And I say that not complimentary,” Smith said.
“I don’t see the information out about them. Why are we talking about this now? We gotta talk about it because it’s the news. Ain’t none of our damn business, unless you fire him.
“But if you keep him, it’s none of our business. It should’ve never been put out there by the Celtics organization – and don’t tell me you didn’t do it! Because you absolutely did it – because news reporters did it.
“So, it emanated out of Boston. Somebody ain’t in L.A. or Utah or something leaking this stuff about the Boston Celtics. This is on y’all. It shouldn’t have been out here. That’s what I have to say.”
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Smith added, though, that Udoka has no one to blame but himself.
“This is a stupid, stupid situation for him to find himself in,” Smith said. “There’s no excuse for him to find himself in this position.”
Rising coaching prospect Joe Mazzulla, 34, has been named as Udoka’s temporary successor.