Investigation found Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka used crude language in dialogue with female subordinate prior to start of improper relationship

An independent law firm investigation of Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used harsh language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to beginning an inappropriate workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly underscored the severity of his year-long life affected suspension, sources told ESPN.

These investigative findings – which described Udoka’s side of the remarks that were seen as particularly related to coming from a supervisor at the workplace – add to what will likely be a difficult path back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

The power dynamics surrounding a supervisor’s inappropriate relationship with an employee was the primary finding and policy violation cited in the law firm’s report commissioned by the Celtics and completed early last week, sources said.

At a press conference last week, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said the suspension – which runs until June 30, 2023 – was a product of multiple breaches of team policy, and sources told ESPN the Celtics wouldn’t stand in Udoka’s way should he do this have the chance to become a coaching candidate somewhere else. There are teams that have been trying to gather a preliminary understanding of the full explanation for Udoka’s suspension in preparation to potentially evaluate him for a future coaching job, sources told ESPN.

Grousbeck also said that Udoka would receive a pay cut during the suspension.

In his freshman season, 45-year-old Udoka led the Celtics to an Eastern Conference championship and a berth in the NBA Finals, where Boston lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Celtics return with a team expected to be championship favorites again and Udoka appeared destined for a long career as manager of the franchise after replacing Brad Stevens, who returned to the front in the 2021 offseason – Office role previously held by Danny Ainge.

Grousbeck said during the press conference that no one else within the organization is facing disciplinary action as a result of the investigation. The Celtics declined to confirm the nature of the violations, but Stevens, the team’s president of basketball operations, got emotional as he described the number of women employed by the Celtics who have been targeted by unsubstantiated rumors and allegations on social media.

The Celtics promoted assistant coach Joe Mazzulla to interim coaching for the upcoming season. Mazzulla, 34, is well respected within the Celtics organization and counts Stevens as a key supporter. Mazzulla was a finalist for the Utah Jazz head coaching job that summer, which went to Celtics top assistant Will Hardy.

Grousbeck and Stevens declined to elaborate on the criteria Udoka would need to meet in order to resume coaching the Celtics following his suspension.

Grousbeck defended the Celtics’ decision to suspend Udoka for the full season, insisting it was the right response based on the findings of the inquest.

“That felt right, but there aren’t any clear guidelines for that,” he said. “It’s conscience and gut feeling. … We came to it together and got there, but it wasn’t clear what needed to be done, but it was clear that something essential needed to be done, and that was it.”

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report. Investigation found Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka used crude language in dialogue with female subordinate prior to start of improper relationship

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