The Boston Celtics have suspended coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-2023 season, the team announced Thursday evening.
The team cited team policy violations in its announcement. Sources previously told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Udoka had an intimate relationship with a female member of the franchise’s staff.
The suspension is effective immediately and a decision on Udoka’s future with the organization will be made at a later date, the team said.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for disappointing,” Udoka said in a statement to ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will not comment further.”
The season-long suspension is largely unprecedented for an incumbent head coach in the NBA.
The Celtics have appointed assistant coach Joe Mazzulla as interim head coach, sources told Wojnarowski.
Udoka’s top assistant coach, Will Hardy, left the team in June to become the Utah Jazz coach.
Udoka joined the Celtics last summer after spending time with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach after his NBA career.
He replaced Brad Stevens as coach. Stevens moved up to become Boston’s president of basketball operations after his predecessor in that position, Danny Ainge, chose to leave the organization.
In his first season as coach, Udoka marked a remarkable turnaround in Boston, one with the Celtics going from under .500 to finish the season in late January with a record 28-7 over their last 35 games. They went on to write an impressive run through the Eastern Conference playoffs and advance 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 head coach and the first since Nick Nurse in 2019.
He also became the first rookie coach to win multiple Game 7s in his first postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. 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 the Celtics lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN contributed to this report.