The suspension of Ime Udoka by the Celtics for the 2022-23 NBA season came after an investigation by an outside law firm found he had a “volume of violations” of team policy, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said on Friday, adding he stood by the punishment (which some saw as too severe).
And no, Brad Stevens is not coming back to the bench.
Those were two of the big takeaways from Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens press conference on Friday. While the pair avoided discussing details of the allegations against Udoka — who had an improper intimate relationship with a Celtics staff member — some things have become clear.
Here are the key takeaways from the press conference and reporting since the announcement.
• The Celtics spent months investigating this situation and hired an outside law firm to do so, Grousbeck said. That investigation ended Wednesday and found a “volume of violations” of the team code of conduct, which led to the team’s suspension of Udoka. Subsequent reporting by Shams Charania of The Athletic found the “woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her.” Sources told NBC Sports that a serious power dynamic was involved in the situation and it was much messier than the early reporting on this suggested.
• Celtics players were “very concerned about this” and Grousbeck spoke to them about the situation.
• Stevens was moved almost to tears over the random and rampant speculation on Twitter about who the woman involved with Udoka was (some Celtics fans were speculating and posting pictures of staffers on social media, unfairly dragging them into this nightmare).
“We have a lot of talented women in our organization. I thought yesterday was really hard on them,” Stevens said. “Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bulls*** but I do think that we as an organization have a responsibility to make sure we’re there to support them now. Because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that.”
• There is a “significant” financial component to Udoka’s suspension, Grousbeck said.
• The duo confirmed reports that assistant coach Joe Mazzula would take over as the interim head coach.
• Grousbeck added he asked Stevens about a possible return to the bench, but “Joe’s the best choice to do that by a long shot,” Stevens said.
• Mazzulla was arrested on a domestic battery charge in 2009 in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck. Steven said that they vetted the situation before hiring Mazzulla and that he takes full responsibility for the incident.
“[I feel] strongly that that probably shaped him into who he is today in a really, really good way. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s 100% accountable for that,” Stevens said.
• Because of the now smaller and less experienced coaching staff, it is possible a veteran coach is added to the staff, Stevens said, but there has been no conversation along those lines yet.
• Both Stevens and Grousbeck said that a decision about what happens beyond this season — with Udoka and the coaching position — has not been made. The Celtics are going to take their time with this.
• This quote from Grousbeck summed up the overall theme of the press conference: “We think our culture is very strong. We’re very proud of it. But this has shaken it. I don’t think there is a wider issue than what we’ve spent several months uncovering.”