The first text from a former Celtic came in around midnight Wednesday.
“What the hell is this?”
As more information regarding Ime Udoka was learned — bits and pieces, but still not enough to allow a full grasp of the matter — the frequency of calls and texts increased.
The Celtics have every legal and moral reason to keep secret the details behind the dramatic step of suspending their coach for a full NBA season. But you’d have to believe that, assuming their decision is as justified as some sources are indicating, there will be a sense of relief in their offices when the story finally surfaces from outside entities.
Until then, the mystery is what’s keeping this in the news and in private discussions that generally begin with something along the lines of the aforementioned text.
“This story’s got everything — fame, sports, sex, everything. People aren’t going to stop talking about this until they find out what went on,” said a Hall of Fame Celtic who called Friday night.
“Hell, I want to know. It’s just so hard to wrap your head around. I mean, I know it has to be something bad, because there’s no way the team would potentially screw up their season like this. I know Ime didn’t play in the games or anything like that, but this issue is going to hang over the players. I wouldn’t want to be them when they get into (training) camp and the questions start coming.
“But, like I said, people are going to be talking about it and asking about it until they know.”
Situation Likened to Walter McCarty
When I asked about the possibility of using his name with the quotes, he replied, “No, because the next thing I want to say is, what the f*** was he thinking? He’s got the world. He’s a first-year coach who gets to the Finals with a team that’s going to get better, and this is what happens? How does someone with all that winning and money in his future let this happen?
“We just went through it with Walt (Walter McCarty) a few years ago. Look at what happened to his career.”
(McCarty, a former Celt, amid sexual misconduct charges, was fired from his position of head coach at the University of Evansville in January of 2020 “for violating the terms of his contract and engaging in behavior contrary to the core values of our University.” A suit brought by McCarty against the school over unpaid earnings was settled out of court.)
“I guess you just never know,” he said. “I guess it’s easy from the outside to think you’d never get involved with something that could screw up your life like this, but it happens.”
Celtics Managing Crisis ‘Exactly the Way You’d Advise’
While the Celtics’ choice of penalty in the Udoka situation won’t be fully judged until the facts come to the fore, their movements to this point seem on point.
A friend who works in public relations and is well versed in crisis management said they’re doing things by the book.
“I’m not surprised, because they’ve got some powerful businesspeople in their ownership group,” he said. “From the outside, it looks like they’ve handled this exactly the way you’d advise. When they saw there was an issue, they brought in an outside law firm to do the investigation. That kept their hands clean and kept them away from charges that would come if they did the investigation themselves — like charges they were covering something up or pushing it in one direction or another.
“The only potential problem I could see so far is with the initial leak of the story. Someone could make something out of it if it came from inside their offices, but after all they’ve done to follow the proper course here, I’d be shocked if it was from them.”
Turning to the Friday press conference with lead owner Wyc Grousbeck and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, he said, “That was always going to be hard because they have such a fine line to walk with this. They want to make the point that they’re justified with the punishment of the coach, and they have to avoid saying anything that could open themselves up to an action from him or from the other people who may be involved in all this. And they also don’t want to offend any fans or just anyone who may be watching. This is a really sensitive issue, and it’s personal.
“Look, these kind of misconduct things happen in corporate offices all the time. They’re HR (human relations department) issues and sometimes civil case issues. But they’re generally quiet and as cold as it may seem, they go away after some money changes hands. I’m not saying that’s necessarily fair for what some of these people have had to go through; I’m just saying it’s the reality. The difference in those situations is those companies don’t have beat writers and all-sports radio and TV stations covering them every day.”
He agreed the story will remain a hot topic among fans until they know the facts.
And it will remain a cloud over the Celtics that can yield a rain shower at a two-game-losing-streak’s notice.