Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck on Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension: ‘Something substantial needed to be done’

BOSTON – A day after the Boston Celtics suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-2023 season, the team held a news conference addressing the matter Friday morning.

The Celtics announced Thursday night that Udoka had been suspended for violations of team policies. Brad Stevens and Wyc Grousbeck took questions at the Auerbach Center in Brighton, and admitted that they could not say much for the privacy of the parties involved. But they did reveal that the Celtics became aware of the situation in July, and immediately brought in an outside firm to investigate.

That investigation concluded on Wednesday, leading to Thursday’s decision to suspend Udoka for the upcoming season. Grousbeck said that there were “a couple of violations” by Udoka, who has accepted and agrees with the franchise’s decision.

Asked if the suspension — which Grousbeck said carries a significant financial penalty to Udoka — was too harsh, Grousbeck pushed back.

“This felt right, but there is no clear guidelines for any of this,” he said. “This is conscience and gut-feeling, being here 20 years. I’m responsible for the decision, but it took a lot of advice from partners. We collectively came to this. It was not clear what to do, but it was clear that something substantial needed to be done and it was.”

Reports on Thursday said Udoka had “a consensual relationship with a female staff member” that violated team rules. According to a new report in The Athletic early Friday, that female staff member recently accused him of “making unwanted comments toward her.” 

“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said in a statement to ESPN’s Malika Andrews Thursday night. “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.” 

Grousbeck said that no other members of the organization are facing penalties over the matter on Friday.  

There is no guarantee that Udoka will return to the job after the suspension is up. Grousbeck said those discussions would not happen until a later time. 

Stevens said that Celtics players are obviously shaken over the matter. He announced that Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla will take over for Udoka on the Boston bench.

Now the team will do everything in its power to make sure that the entire organization heals from this shocking and disappointing situation. Stevens was clearly shaken up and hurt by the damage that social media speculation did to uninvolved women in the organization on Thursday.

“It has obviously been a hard time. The only thing I would like to say is that we have a lot of talented women in our organization and yesterday was really hard on them,” said Stevens. “Nobody can control twitter speculation, rampant bull—-, but I do think we, as an organization, have a responsibility to support them now. A lot of people were dragged unfairly in that. I would just add that and go from there.”

“I am concerned about the situation and its impact one everyone in the Celtics organization,” added Grousbeck. “I hope this represents the beginning of a new chapter, a chance to move forward with things, to some extent, resolved. I’m confident in everyone here, including Brad Stevens, those on the roster, the business staff, that we’ll get through together as a family.

“We think our culture is very strong and we’re very proud of it, but this has shaken it,” said Grousbeck. “I don’t think there is a wider issue than what we spent several months uncovering. I don’t think it goes more broadly.”

The Celtics will hold their media day on Monday, with training camp getting underway on Tuesday.

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