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HomeSportsUdok's name rejected: what awaits the "Celtics" and not only?

Udok’s name rejected: what awaits the “Celtics” and not only?

Pa Rick Bucher, Melissa Rochlin and Yaron Weitzman
By FOX Sports NBA

Just three months after he took over Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as a head coach, Ime Udoka found himself at the center of drama and uncertainty wracking the organization.

Udoka was suspended by the team for the entire 2022-23 season on Thursday, just a day after ESPN and The Athletic reported that he had a consensual relationship with a member of the team’s staff in violation of organizational policy.

Udoka issued a statement following the Celtics’ decision:

The ramifications of the unprecedented punishment will surely be felt throughout the organization and the league in the coming days. Our NBA reporters – Rick Booher, Melissa Rollin and Jaron Weitzman – spoke with NBA sources to get the lowdown on what’s next.

Where will the Celtics go

In place of Udoka, the Celtics will turn to assistant coach Joe Mazzula, according to ESPN.

Just 34 years old, Matsula takes over a team that is out of the finals and looking for a new one. That would be a tall order for any coach, let alone one with no experience as the leading voice of an NBA team. The good news for Celtics fans is that Mazzulla seems to be well-liked throughout the organization.

“The players love him and respect him,” one Celtics source said. When asked about Mazzula during last year’s playoff run, the Celtics star Jason Tatum said, “I love Joe… [I] Can’t say enough good things about Joe and everyone appreciates what he brings to this team and I’m glad we have him.”

Mazzula, who as a point guard helped lead West Virginia to the NCAA Final Four in 2010, first joined the Celtics organization in 2016 as an assistant with their G League team, the Maine Red Claws. He left the following season to become the head coach at Division II Fairmont State, where he remained for three years before being brought on to Brad Stevens’ coaching staff with the Celtics in 2019. The job was a dream come true for the Rhode Island native, who friends say was a Celtics fan as a child.

Player development was his original goal. He worked closely with Kemba Walker, among others.

“The players picked him up,” said Scott Morrison, then a Celtics assistant and Mazzula’s head coach during his tenure with the Red Claws. “He tells them what it is without being rude, and in my experience, the players love it. They like being coached.”

He connected with the players because he was as competitive as they were. Case in point: During the bubble, he and Morrison took up swimming as a hobby; For days, Morrison said, Mazzula spent hours watching YouTube, researching the right techniques and strategies so he would never lose a race.

In June 2021, Stevens resigned as the head coach and became the general manager of the Celtics. He soon hired Udoku. Mazzula was one of Stevens’ two retained assistants.

“I talked to everybody in the organization when I was being hired, including the players, and he got great feedback,” Udoka said of Mazulu in June. “I didn’t know much about him going into it, but I value the opinion of the players and he was a single-minded person, yes.”

Udoka promoted Mazulla to the position “in front of the bench”. He gave him more X’s and O’s. Mazzula worked with former top assistant Will Hardy on game planning. Players noticed the difference.

“He’s become a lot more knowledgeable, more detailed, more vocal and more comfortable in his coaching role,” Tatum said last spring. “You’ve seen the growth since his freshman year and he’s helped me tremendously as a player and as a person.”

Tatum wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Matsula interviewed for the Jazz head coaching job this summer. Utah, led by former Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, hired Hardy instead, but then tried to hire Matsula as a top assistant, according to sources familiar with the situation. The Celtics had already planned to promote Mazzulla to Hardy’s role, but after Utah’s pursuit, they also increased his salary.

The Celtics know Matsula will have to learn — don’t be surprised if they add a former head coach or veteran assistant to their staff — and they know Udoka’s success in creating a culture of accountability and selflessness helped them turn around their season last year and enter the final.

But they also have a loaded roster, and they believe they still have a head coach in Matsula who knows the strengths and weaknesses of the group and knows how to best move the pieces around.

You never know how someone will react to being the boss, the one who has the final say and can be blamed if things go wrong. But Mazulla’s colleagues, friends and, most importantly, his bosses are confident in his ability to pick up where Udoka left off.

How others in the league react

The question remains: Will the team pick up where they left off? And if it doesn’t, does Mazoula have the presence and personality to steer it the right way?

The Celtics struggled until midway through last season, when Udoka publicly demanded more from his stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, especially on defense.

“[Udoka’s] got such a great presence,” said one Eastern Conference general manager. “He challenged those guys early. He was not afraid. He was waved back, and he did not move. It’s the Larry Brown rule: We can find ways to score, but can we get players to defend and rebound? This is the most difficult. I made them defend and fight back.”

Coaches willing and able to challenge their stars and make them respond are a rare breed, even in the NBA. Rival executives and scouts are skeptical that the Celtics will be able to find two back-to-back coaches capable of recovering from a slow start.

“You have to believe the entire Boston Celtics organization is sick right now,” the Eastern Conference GM said. “Absolutely sick. They were a legitimate title contender. It puts them on a very slippery slope. Let’s say they started well, I think they could keep it going. But if they start shaky, they’ll be pointing fingers, questioning the management. It will be written about and talked about, and, potentially, it will get into everyone’s head.”

There are no reports of a previous NBA head coach being suspended for having an affair with someone in the organization, although league sources said revelations of extramarital affairs have led to the firing of several head coaches and executives over the years, even if they were not publicly cited at the time.

There have been similar incidents at the collegiate level with varying consequences. Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was fired in 2012 for having an affair with a former women’s volleyball player who was hired as his assistant. Pokey Chatman, now an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, resigned as LSU’s women’s basketball coach in 2007 after it was revealed that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a former player while the player was a member of the team. And former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino violated the morality clause of his contract by having sex with a woman at an Italian restaurant — the woman later married the team’s equipment manager — but the Cardinals chose not to fire Pitino.

Whether there will be pushback from the league over Udoka’s punishment is still up in the air. Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, did not respond to a text message seeking comment, and the NBCA had no statement regarding Udoka.

How this could affect Udoka and the Celtics long term

Just three months ago, Udoka and the Celtics were so close to the top of the NBA. Now, the Celtics, who are still considered favorites in the Eastern Conference after getting their core back in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brownhave to figure out how to play without your leader.

It’s a tough break for a team that credited Udok with turning a 23-24 start last season into a second seed with a 51-31 record.

Now the question is, how much will this affect the future success of the Celtics?

“Boston has some dynamic players throughout the season [they] have created a culture of toughness and competition on the court, talent will help keep them,” said an NBA scout. “But make no mistake, losing Udoka will be a big blow because he did a great job last season.”

Udoka skillfully walked a tightrope, yelling at his players fiercely while also making them believe in himself, proving himself to be a breakthrough coach in his first year. He led the Celtics to a 26-6 record in their last 32 games and helped them beat Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami in the playoffs.

During the NBA Finals, the Celtics praised their soft-spoken leader, who was known for his brutal honesty and quickly gained the trust and respect of those around him.

“It’s clear and simple. I think his energy was contagious for all of us,” Smart said after the Celtics opened the Finals with an upset win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 in San Francisco.

For Udoka, his star finally rose after he became one of the league’s top assists players after nine seasons with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

He showed the world he belonged in his first season as a head coach by finishing fourth in NBA Coach of the Year voting.

“He’s holding everyone accountable, top to bottom, you know, an open door policy,” Tatum said in May. “…I think it’s just great for the group and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Now, it’s fair to wonder if this suspension can stop his ascension. According to a report by TNT, Udoka will not be stepping down from his position, but his future beyond the 2022-2023 season remains unclear.

Even so, in a league with only 30 head coaching vacancies, many of which rotate, a significant departure is a definite blow to a fledgling career.

“Depending on the facts, he may need to go into the shadows for a while and then take a few steps back to move forward again,” an NBA scout told FOX Sports.


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Udok’s name rejected: what awaits the “Celtics” and not only?

Pa Rick Bucher, Melissa Rochlin and Yaron Weitzman
By FOX Sports NBA

Just three months after he took over Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as a head coach, Ime Udoka found himself at the center of drama and uncertainty wracking the organization.

Udoka was suspended by the team for the entire 2022-23 season on Thursday, just a day after ESPN and The Athletic reported that he had a consensual relationship with a member of the team’s staff in violation of organizational policy.

Udoka issued a statement following the Celtics’ decision:

The ramifications of the unprecedented punishment will surely be felt throughout the organization and the league in the coming days. Our NBA reporters – Rick Booher, Melissa Rollin and Jaron Weitzman – spoke with NBA sources to get the lowdown on what’s next.

Where will the Celtics go

In place of Udoka, the Celtics will turn to assistant coach Joe Mazzula, according to ESPN.

Just 34 years old, Matsula takes over a team that is out of the finals and looking for a new one. That would be a tall order for any coach, let alone one with no experience as the leading voice of an NBA team. The good news for Celtics fans is that Mazzulla seems to be well-liked throughout the organization.

“The players love him and respect him,” one Celtics source said. When asked about Mazzula during last year’s playoff run, the Celtics star Jason Tatum said, “I love Joe… [I] Can’t say enough good things about Joe and everyone appreciates what he brings to this team and I’m glad we have him.”

Mazzula, who as a point guard helped lead West Virginia to the NCAA Final Four in 2010, first joined the Celtics organization in 2016 as an assistant with their G League team, the Maine Red Claws. He left the following season to become the head coach at Division II Fairmont State, where he remained for three years before being brought on to Brad Stevens’ coaching staff with the Celtics in 2019. The job was a dream come true for the Rhode Island native, who friends say was a Celtics fan as a child.

Player development was his original goal. He worked closely with Kemba Walker, among others.

“The players picked him up,” said Scott Morrison, then a Celtics assistant and Mazzula’s head coach during his tenure with the Red Claws. “He tells them what it is without being rude, and in my experience, the players love it. They like being coached.”

He connected with the players because he was as competitive as they were. Case in point: During the bubble, he and Morrison took up swimming as a hobby; For days, Morrison said, Mazzula spent hours watching YouTube, researching the right techniques and strategies so he would never lose a race.

In June 2021, Stevens resigned as the head coach and became the general manager of the Celtics. He soon hired Udoku. Mazzula was one of Stevens’ two retained assistants.

“I talked to everybody in the organization when I was being hired, including the players, and he got great feedback,” Udoka said of Mazulu in June. “I didn’t know much about him going into it, but I value the opinion of the players and he was a single-minded person, yes.”

Udoka promoted Mazulla to the position “in front of the bench”. He gave him more X’s and O’s. Mazzula worked with former top assistant Will Hardy on game planning. Players noticed the difference.

“He’s become a lot more knowledgeable, more detailed, more vocal and more comfortable in his coaching role,” Tatum said last spring. “You’ve seen the growth since his freshman year and he’s helped me tremendously as a player and as a person.”

Tatum wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Matsula interviewed for the Jazz head coaching job this summer. Utah, led by former Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, hired Hardy instead, but then tried to hire Matsula as a top assistant, according to sources familiar with the situation. The Celtics had already planned to promote Mazzulla to Hardy’s role, but after Utah’s pursuit, they also increased his salary.

The Celtics know Matsula will have to learn — don’t be surprised if they add a former head coach or veteran assistant to their staff — and they know Udoka’s success in creating a culture of accountability and selflessness helped them turn around their season last year and enter the final.

But they also have a loaded roster, and they believe they still have a head coach in Matsula who knows the strengths and weaknesses of the group and knows how to best move the pieces around.

You never know how someone will react to being the boss, the one who has the final say and can be blamed if things go wrong. But Mazulla’s colleagues, friends and, most importantly, his bosses are confident in his ability to pick up where Udoka left off.

How others in the league react

The question remains: Will the team pick up where they left off? And if it doesn’t, does Mazoula have the presence and personality to steer it the right way?

The Celtics struggled until midway through last season, when Udoka publicly demanded more from his stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, especially on defense.

“[Udoka’s] got such a great presence,” said one Eastern Conference general manager. “He challenged those guys early. He was not afraid. He was waved back, and he did not move. It’s the Larry Brown rule: We can find ways to score, but can we get players to defend and rebound? This is the most difficult. I made them defend and fight back.”

Coaches willing and able to challenge their stars and make them respond are a rare breed, even in the NBA. Rival executives and scouts are skeptical that the Celtics will be able to find two back-to-back coaches capable of recovering from a slow start.

“You have to believe the entire Boston Celtics organization is sick right now,” the Eastern Conference GM said. “Absolutely sick. They were a legitimate title contender. It puts them on a very slippery slope. Let’s say they started well, I think they could keep it going. But if they start shaky, they’ll be pointing fingers, questioning the management. It will be written about and talked about, and, potentially, it will get into everyone’s head.”

There are no reports of a previous NBA head coach being suspended for having an affair with someone in the organization, although league sources said revelations of extramarital affairs have led to the firing of several head coaches and executives over the years, even if they were not publicly cited at the time.

There have been similar incidents at the collegiate level with varying consequences. Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was fired in 2012 for having an affair with a former women’s volleyball player who was hired as his assistant. Pokey Chatman, now an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, resigned as LSU’s women’s basketball coach in 2007 after it was revealed that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a former player while the player was a member of the team. And former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino violated the morality clause of his contract by having sex with a woman at an Italian restaurant — the woman later married the team’s equipment manager — but the Cardinals chose not to fire Pitino.

Whether there will be pushback from the league over Udoka’s punishment is still up in the air. Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, did not respond to a text message seeking comment, and the NBCA had no statement regarding Udoka.

How this could affect Udoka and the Celtics long term

Just three months ago, Udoka and the Celtics were so close to the top of the NBA. Now, the Celtics, who are still considered favorites in the Eastern Conference after getting their core back in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brownhave to figure out how to play without your leader.

It’s a tough break for a team that credited Udok with turning a 23-24 start last season into a second seed with a 51-31 record.

Now the question is, how much will this affect the future success of the Celtics?

“Boston has some dynamic players throughout the season [they] have created a culture of toughness and competition on the court, talent will help keep them,” said an NBA scout. “But make no mistake, losing Udoka will be a big blow because he did a great job last season.”

Udoka skillfully walked a tightrope, yelling at his players fiercely while also making them believe in himself, proving himself to be a breakthrough coach in his first year. He led the Celtics to a 26-6 record in their last 32 games and helped them beat Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami in the playoffs.

During the NBA Finals, the Celtics praised their soft-spoken leader, who was known for his brutal honesty and quickly gained the trust and respect of those around him.

“It’s clear and simple. I think his energy was contagious for all of us,” Smart said after the Celtics opened the Finals with an upset win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 in San Francisco.

For Udoka, his star finally rose after he became one of the league’s top assists players after nine seasons with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

He showed the world he belonged in his first season as a head coach by finishing fourth in NBA Coach of the Year voting.

“He’s holding everyone accountable, top to bottom, you know, an open door policy,” Tatum said in May. “…I think it’s just great for the group and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Now, it’s fair to wonder if this suspension can stop his ascension. According to a report by TNT, Udoka will not be stepping down from his position, but his future beyond the 2022-2023 season remains unclear.

Even so, in a league with only 30 head coaching vacancies, many of which rotate, a significant departure is a definite blow to a fledgling career.

“Depending on the facts, he may need to go into the shadows for a while and then take a few steps back to move forward again,” an NBA scout told FOX Sports.


Get more from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to stay updated on games, news and more.



Reported by Source link

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