Celtics suspend coach Emi Odoka for the entire 2022-23 NBA season

Ime Udoka coached the Boston Celtics for the NBA Finals in his first season while on the job. (Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics suspended second-year coach Amy Odoka throughout the 2022-23 NBA season for violating team code of conduct, the organization announced Thursday night.

Assistant coach Joe Mazzola will serve as the team’s interim coach in Odoka’s absence, According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Celtics said a decision on Odoka’s long-term future with the team after the 2022-23 season “will be made at a later time”. Odoka issued an apology in a vague statement.

“I want to apologize to our players, the fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Odoka said. via Malika Andrews from ESPN. “I am sorry to put the team in such a difficult situation, and I agree with the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment.”

Athletic player Shams Charania reported last night, citing anonymous sources, that Odoka “had an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a member of the team’s crew.”

Odoka led the Celtics to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010 in his first season as head coach. Boston is the favorite to win the 2023 Championship, according to BetMGM. Odoka played parts of seven seasons in the NBA for five different teams before joining the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant in 2012. The 45-year-old also spent time as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets before the Celtics gave him a late chance to lead a team. He placed fourth in last season’s Coach of the Year vote.

Mazzola was an assistant coach for the Boston J-League in Maine during the 2016-2017 season. He coached the University of Vermont at West Virginia’s college-level Division II for two seasons before joining the staff of then-Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as an assistant in 2019. Stevens moved to the Boston front office in 2021, assuming the position vacated by the former NFL chief Basket Danny Ainge’s operations and Udoka’s employment as well.

The 34-year-old Mazola coached the Celtics roster in the 2021 Las Vegas Summer League for the championship game. He interviewed for the main coaching position that Odoka held last year. Over the summer, Mazzola interviewed Ainge, the current CEO of Utah Jazz, to mark the opening left by coach Quin Snyder’s departure. Jazz eventually hired Will Hardy, the lead assistant on the Odoka crew last season.

“I spoke to everyone in the organization when I was hired, including the players, and he got great reviews,” Odoka said of Mazzulla in June, when news of his interview with the Jazz broke out. “I didn’t know much about him going into it, but I do value the opinions of the players, and he was a man of unanimity, yes. … It’s easy to see why, once I got to know him and being around him. What I encouraged our guys to do was to be More candid, to be more out there, to have their own voice, the same way I grew up in San Antonio.”

A huge task awaits Mazzulla. Udoka attracted rave reviews to inspire Boston’s transformation from a sub-.500 mid-season team to a juggernaut. During the last three months of last season, the Celtics had the league’s best record (28-8), best offensive rating (120 points per 100 possessions) and best defensive rating (105.1 points allowed per 100 possessions). They captured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs and defeated the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat in a seven-game winning streak, before losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, 4-2.

After the commercial acquisition of former Rookie of the Year holder Malcolm Brugdon in July that boosted Boston’s chances of returning to the Finals, the Celtics suffered a series of unfortunate news events. Veteran striker Danilo Gallinari, who signed a free agent contract with Celtics this summer, tore left AFC Champions League left while playing for Italy in a Basketball World Cup qualifier in late August. Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that All-Defensive Center Robert Williams III will undergo arthroscopic surgery this week on his left knee.

The Celtics are scheduled to host their Media Day celebrations on Monday at 12 p.m. ET.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him to rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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