Celtics suspend coach Emi Odoka for 2022-23 season

Ime Udoka won’t be on the sidelines in the Boston Celtics hunt, and his future with the organization is in question.

The Celtics announced Thursday that Odoka, who led the franchise to the NBA Finals in his first season as coach, has been suspended for the entire 2022-2023 season due to “violations of team policies.” Odoka was involved in an inappropriate intimate relationship with a female employee, several people with knowledge of the situation confirmed, and the Celtics family said a decision about his future with the organization “will be made at a later time”.

The Celtics did not immediately mention Odoka’s temporary replacement. Assistant Joe Mazzola is expected to serve as Odoka’s replacement during the suspension that began Thursday, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down,” Odoka said in a statement. “I am sorry to put the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for all involved, I will have no further comment.”

ESPN and Athletic first reported the details surrounding Udoka’s penalty, which comes less than a week before Celtics open training camp and less than a month before the regular season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 18.

Odoka, 45, emerged as a rising star in the coaching ranks last season, leading Boston to 51 wins and the first Eastern Conference championship since 2010. The NBA defense ranked fourth and placed fourth in the Coach of the Year vote. During an impressive playoff, the Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets under Kevin Durant, knocked out the Milwaukee Bucks of Giannis Antetokounmpo and beat the Miami Heat of Jimmy Butler before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

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Boston cemented their position as the title favorites by acquiring guard Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers in a deal in July. The Celtics brought back Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford, among other key pieces from last year’s team. However, Robert Williams III will be out for at least a month after his recent knee surgery, and striker Danilo Galinari, an off-season addition, could miss the entire season after rupturing the ACL in his left knee in August.

A former NBA player, Odoka spent seven seasons with five different NBA teams before joining the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff in 2012. Odoka, who spent the 2019-2020 season as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers and the 2020- 2021 in the same role with the Nets, and also worked as an assistant NBA under Tottenham coach Gregg Popovich at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Celtics hired Odoka as part of a 2021 overhaul that saw long-time president Danny Inge leave and former coach Brad Stevens promoted to the front office. Boston lost former assistant coach Will Hardy in June when Ainge, the current chief executive of the Utah Jazz, appointed him to his first major coaching position.

Mazola, 34, joined the Celtics in 2019 as an assistant coach under Stevens after a previous stint as an assistant with the Boston J-League’s Maine Red Claws. This summer, the Rhode Island native interviewed for the position of head jazz coach before switching to Hardy.

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