The Boston Celtics have made the decision to suspend Ime Udoka for the upcoming season, and have since appointed assistant coach Joe Mazzulla as their interim head coach with immediate effect.
Mazzulla, 34, has been with the Celtics since 2019 and has developed a strong relationship with the team’s roster during that time, while also getting the opportunity to coach Boston’s 2021 Summer League team – where he took them to the Summer League finals before losing to Davion Mitchell and the Sacramento Kings.
In terms of his relationship with Boston’s star players, Mazzulla has received glowing praise over the years, none more prevalent than Jayson Tatum’s assessment of the then assistant coach during the NBA Finals.
“I love Joe. I think being around him for the last two or three years, you can tell how passionate he is about the guys and his craft. He’s gotten so much more knowledgeable and more detailed, more vocal, and more comfortable in his role as a coach. He’s helped me out tremendously, as a player and a person, I can’t say enough good things about Joe,” Tatum said during a June 15 post-game interview.
With Udoka’s suspension set to take place with immediate effect, Mazzulla will get his first taste of head coaching responsibilities when the Celtics report for training camp on September 27.
Udoka Violated Organizational Policies
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent Celtics fans into meltdown on September 21, as he released a late-night tweet detailing how Udoka was facing a potential suspension from his head coaching duties.
The Celtics then released a statement confirming Udoka’s immediate suspension on September 22, noting that a decision on the head coach’s long-term future with the franchise will be decided at a later date.
“The Boston Celtics announced today that the team has suspended Head Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violations of team policies. A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date. The suspension takes effect immediately,” The statement read.
In his first year as head coach, Udoka led Boston to a 51-31 regular-season record, seeing them finish second in the Eastern Conference, before guiding his team to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Former Lakers Coach Could Join Celtics Bench
Mazzulla, while experienced as an assistant coach, doesn’t possess any experience of being a head coach in the NBA – and with Will Hardy leaving Boston to take a head coaching role with the Utah Jazz earlier this summer, the Celtics bench is looking rather thin.
“Don’t be surprised if Frank Vogel is considered for the Celtics bench. Joe Mazzulla is expected to be elevated, but the staff is thin with head coaching experience. Vogel has a longstanding relationship with Brad Stevens,” Mannix Tweeted on September 22.
It’s clear Boston needs some additional coaches in their ranks for the coming season, and if they can add an experienced, championship-winning coach as an assistant, that’s a move they should seriously explore.