‘People were dragged unfairly into speculation’

In the wake of head coach Ime Udoka’s suspension and the rumours it has spurred, Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens spoke emotionally in support of the women in his organization Friday.

“Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bullshit,” Stevens said in press conference, holding back tears.

“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.”

Udoka was suspended the entire 2022-23 season for what the Celtics called “violations of team policies.” Multiple reports say those violations involve Udoka’s consensual relationship with a female staff member, which has led to inaccurate speculation about the identity of the woman involved.

“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down. 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 have no further comment,” Udoka said in a statement to ESPN.

Celtics governor Wyc Grousbeck, who sat beside Stevens as both spoke to reporters, said the Celtics hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation. The investigation finished on Wednesday, prompting the Celtics’ decision to suspend Udoka.

Grousbeck would not elaborate on the issue, other than clarifying Udoka had made a “volume of violations” and will receive a “significant” financial penalty.

Udoka will be suspended until June 30, after which a decision on his future will be made, Grousbeck said.

Regarding his decision to suspend the head coach instead of firing him, Grousbeck explained: “This felt right, but there’s no clear guidelines for any of this. This is really a conscious, gut feel and being here 20 years. I’m responsible for the decision, ultimately.”

In their statement released Thursday night, the Celtics gave no guarantee Udoka would return as head coach.

Assistant Joe Mazzulla will fill in as interim head coach during the season.

“It’s not easy timing for him or the rest of the staff, but he’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person. I believe strongly in him in his ability to lead people, his ability to galvanize the room,” Stevens said. “This will be an unbelievable challenge, but I’m really confident in the team and coaching staff that’s gonna take the court on Tuesday.”

“I told Joe I’m going to be there for him without stepping on any toes,” Stevens added, noting he’s not interested in a return to coaching.

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