Celtics name Joe Mazzola as interim coach, don’t give details on Emi Udoka’s suspension

While they declined to reveal details about the decision to suspend Ime Udoka for an inappropriate relationship with an employee, Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and President Brad Stevens said Friday that a lengthy investigation into their coach’s behavior affected the organization and that Udoka’s season-long suspension was justified.

Boston’s leadership held a press conference a day after it was announced that Odoka, who led the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals in his first year as coach, would be suspended for the duration of the 2022-23 season for “team rule violations”. Celtics assistant Joe Mazzola will serve as interim coach during Odoka’s suspension.

Grosbeek said the Celtics became aware of a “potential situation” earlier this summer and hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation, which took some “twists and turns” before concluding this week. Although Celtics did not reveal details of Udoka’s behavior or the identities of any other employees who may have been involved, Grousbeck said that Udoka was the only person facing discipline and that he would be subject to a “very substantial fine” in conjunction with his suspension, which will run through June 30, 2023. .

Grosbeek declined to explain Boston’s “deliberations” about whether to suspend or fire Odoka, saying he made the decision “on conscience and gut feeling” while repeating the franchise’s position that the decision on the coach’s future after this season “will be made at a later date.” There is no precedent for an NBA coach being suspended for an entire season, and it’s not clear if Udoka will be able to return to his position.

Celtics suspend coach Emi Odoka for 2022-23 season

“We have strong values ​​at the Celtics and are doing everything we can to support them here,” Grosbeek said. “We thought as a group with outside consultants, a diverse group, in fact, deciding what to do. I take the ultimate responsibility. I personally feel that way. [suspension] Justified, appropriate, and backed by substantial research, evidence, and facts. I’m sticking with the decision and Amy has accepted it.”

Oduka on Thursday apologized to “our players, our fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down.”

The 34-year-old Mazzola has been with the Celtics since 2019 after a previous stint with the team’s G League team in Maine, and he will be the youngest coach in the NBA this season. Grosbeek cited Mazola’s “energy and passion” as factors in his appointment, while Stevens said the Rhode Island native was “the best option…by a long shot” to guide the Eastern champions in the title chase.

“It’s not easy timing [Mazzulla] Or the rest of the staff,” Stevens said. “He’s an exceptionally intelligent and talented person. I believe deeply in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to motivate the room and stand behind them, his ability to organize and understand everything that comes with managing a team during the season.”

The Celtics had a “short” chat about Stevens’ return to the bench, according to Grosbeek. But Stevens, who set the record 353-282 (.557) as coach from 2013 to 2021, said he “never thought” of the idea, adding that the Celtics could still add to their coaching staff this season. Boston lost esteemed assistant Will Hardy when he was hired to coach the Utah Jazz in June.

“I will be there for [Mazzulla] Stevens said. “He doesn’t need much. I strongly believe in that. Sometimes, you just need someone who has been by your side. I wish I was for him.”

While attending West Virginia University in 2009, Mazola was arrested on domestic battery charges and suspended from the basketball team. Stevens said the Celtics team examined the incident “really comprehensively” and concluded that it “formed [Mazzulla] to what it is today, in a really good way.”

“I believe strongly in Joe’s essentialism as a person,” Stevens said. He has been very open with me how those moments affected him in every way. You can see it for a long time. We had years to get to know him. … He is 100 per cent responsible.”

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Boston kicks off its training camp Tuesday as one of the top favorites in the NBA after a 51-31 campaign that produced the organization’s first trip to the Finals since 2010. The Celtics return Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford, among others. He was cut from last year’s team and acquired guard Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers in a deal in July. However, Robert Williams III and striker Danilo Gallinari will be sidelined to start the season with knee injuries.

Grosbeek admitted that the squad’s players were “extremely concerned” about Odoka’s situation given the timing of his suspension and the private nature of the investigation. Along with the list, Grosbeek and Stevens expressed their support for the female employees of the Celtics, and lamented that some of them were subjected to online speculation about their possible engagement with Odoka once news of his pending comment began leaking late Wednesday. The Celtics did not announce Udoka’s comment until late Thursday evening.

“It was a tough time,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of talented women in our organization. I thought [Thursday] It was really hard for them. Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bulls —. We as an organization have a responsibility to make sure we are there to support them now. A lot of people were unfairly dragged into it.”

Odoka was once seen as a stability piece capable of pulling together a roster of talent that underperformed last season for Stevens, but his sudden and unexpected absence is now a major test for the Celtics.

“We think our culture is very strong and we are proud of it,” Grosbeek said. “This has shaken her, perhaps. I don’t think there is room for more [cultural] the case. …we need to support Celtic Pride, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. “

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