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The Boston Celtics announced Thursday Joe Mazzulla will be the 19th head coach in franchise history, replacing Ime Udoka.
Mazzulla was named interim coach last September after then-head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season for an improper relationship with multiple female members of the Boston Celtics staff.
“As he has shown, Joe is a very talented coach and leader,” Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said in a statement announcing the decision. “He has a unique ability to galvanize a room around a mission. We are thankful for the work he has done to help get us to this point, and excited that he has agreed to lead us into the future.”
The Boston Celtics are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference while having the best record in the NBA heading into All-Star weekend. It’s due in large part to the way Mazzulla has been able to rally the team amidst early season distractions.
The Celtics were two games away from being NBA champions last season before eventually losing to the Golden State Warriors 4-2. With the core of the team returning for the 2022-23 season, the Celtics expected to be back in the NBA Finals led by a rising star coach in Ime Udoka. Then an improper intimate and consensual relationship with multiple female members of the team staff came to light, and Udoka was suspended for the entire season with the potential of harsher punishment to follow.
Boston Celtics Suspend Ime Udoka Following Improper Relationships
Udoka was engaged to Actress Nia Long, and the two were planning to move in together after over a decade in the relationship when the news of the improper relationships went public. Caught in the middle of a relationship scandal as well as sports drama, Long recalled to The Cut the betrayal she felt by the Celtics organization.
Long thinks part of the public scrutiny surrounding her relationship had to do with her being a Black woman.
“Race matters and makes a difference in your experiences and the way people treat you, respect you, and regard you — and the way people protect you,” she told The Cut. “Malcolm X said the least protected person in America is the Black woman. That quote resonates big time in my life right now.”