Celtics Hire Joe Mazzulla Permanently, Cutting Ties With Ime Udoka
The Boston Celtics named Joe Mazzulla as their permanent head coach on Thursday, and they have fired Ime Udoka, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Udoka had been suspended since September for unspecified “violations of team policies.” According to two people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly, Udoka had a relationship with a female subordinate.
Mazzulla, 34, who had been an assistant in Boston for the last three years, was named the interim coach in his stead. With him at the helm, the Celtics have not skipped a beat since going to the N.B.A. finals last season. They are entering the All-Star break this weekend with the league’s best record at 42-17.
“As he has shown, Joe is a very talented coach and leader,” Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, said in a statement. “He has a unique ability to galvanize a room around a mission. We are thankful for the work he has done to help get us to this point, and excited that he has agreed to lead us into the future.”
The Celtics said in a statement that they had agreed to a contract extension with Mazzulla, but they did not disclose the terms of the deal.
Udoka had been a highly respected assistant for nearly a decade before the Celtics hired him in 2021. He led last year’s team to a 51-31 record and a surprise trip to the N.B.A. finals, where Boston lost to Golden State in six games.
But just days before training camp began this season, the Celtics suspended Udoka with the vague explanation of team policy violations, leading to an avalanche of social media speculation about the team’s female staffers as rumors swirled.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said in a statement after the suspension was announced.
Mazzulla, a former college basketball player at West Virginia University, was handed the reins. The Celtics began the season 18-4 and have been among the best teams in the N.B.A. on both ends of the floor.