Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is likely facing a suspension for the entire 2022-23 season for his role in an intimate relationship with a female member of the franchise’s staff, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
The relationship is considered a violation of the organization’s guidelines, and the proposed penalty for Udoka is largely unprecedented for a sitting head coach in the NBA. A formal announcement is expected as soon as Thursday.
Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla is likely to become Boston’s interim coach for the season, sources told ESPN.
Udoka’s top assistant coach, Will Hardy, left the team in June to become coach of the Utah Jazz.
He replaced Brad Stevens as coach. Stevens moved upstairs to be Boston’s president of basketball operations after his predecessor in that job, Danny Ainge, chose to leave the organization.
In his first season as coach, Udoka oversaw a remarkable turnaround in Boston, one that saw the Celtics go from being under .500 in late January to closing the season with a 28-7 record over their final 35 games. They then authored an impressive run through the Eastern Conference playoffs, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years.
Udoka is the fifth coach in the past 25 years to reach the NBA Finals in his first season as a head coach and the first since Nick Nurse in 2019.
He also, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, became the first rookie coach to win multiple Game 7s in his first postseason. Udoka led Boston to victories over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals and the Miami Heat in the East finals in seven games before Boston lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games in the NBA Finals.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.