Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens spoke to the media on Friday for the first time since suspending coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season.
At the press conference, Grousbeck gave insight into the timeline between the summer when they first learned of Udoka’s relationship with a member of Celtics staff, prompting the club to launch an investigation. The investigation, which Grousbeck said was conducted by an independent party, lasted several weeks and ended on Wednesday. Grousbeck said he discovered Udoka had committed multiple violations of the team’s conduct policy, resulting in the one-year suspension announced Thursday night.
Here’s what we learned from Friday’s press conference.
A private law firm investigated the case.
In his opening statement, Grousbeck said he couldn’t provide exactly what happened with Udoka for “confidentiality reasons,” referring to Thursday’s team statement, which called it “d ‘pretty clear’.
“As soon as we learned of a potential situation, we immediately engaged a respected law firm to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation,” Grousbeck said. “They took time. We actually finished this investigation with a report two days ago, so that’s the reason for the timing here.
Grousbeck said the investigation spanned at least several weeks before ending on Wednesday.
“The investigation had a few twists and turns,” Grousbeck said. It took time to develop all the facts. It finally ended – so far it all ended two days ago.
Grousbeck denied that the Celtics “disclosed” details of the investigation’s findings to the media on Wednesday and Thursday.
How the Celtics made the decision to suspend Udoka for one season:
When it was first reported that Udoka was having a consensual intimate relationship with a member of Celtics staff, some people, like the former Celtics player Paul Pierce — were surprised at the length of the suspension.
Grousbeck explained why he felt Udoka should at least be suspended.
“We thought as a group and with outside advisers – and a diverse group, actually – of people to decide what to do, which I take responsibility for at the Celtics, whatever is decided,” Grousbeck said. “I personally think this is well justified and appropriate, backed by substantial research, evidence and facts. I stand by the decision, and Ime accepted it. He expressed an appreciation, and I don’t want to dwell on that- on it, but he accepted it and he plans to move forward on that basis.
As reports of Udoka’s behavior emerged, some questioned why the Celtics chose to suspend him instead of firing him. Grousbeck explained why he opted for a suspension, for the time being.
“It felt right to me, but there are no clear guidelines for any of this,” Grousbeck said. It’s really about awareness and intuition and being here for 20 years. I’m responsible for the decision, ultimately, but I took a lot of advice from partners, like Brad and others, and we collectively came to this and got there. What to do was unclear. But it was clear that something substantial needed to be done in my opinion – and it was.
Udoka’s future with the team is uncertain.
Grousbeck said Udoka’s suspension will last until June 23, 2023, the last day of the 2022-23 NBA calendar year. There is no guarantee that Udoka will be back in Boston on that date.
“We will make a decision later on Ime’s future with us and that will be discussed at another time and has not been decided at this stage,” Grousbeck said.
Grousbeck mentioned the financial implications of Udoka’s suspension.
“The suspension comes with a really big penalty when you clean everything up,” Grousbeck said. “That is an accurate statement. A very significant financial penalty.
Celtics players were ‘concerned’ about the issue
No Celtics player has yet commented on Udoka’s suspension, but Grousbeck opened the curtain a bit on the conversation he and Stevens had with them about it.
“I would say in general they’re very concerned about that,” Grousbeck said. “It’s not a welcome development. I also think they have the energy, the focus, the commitment and the drive to really achieve great things hopefully this season. is the commitment I feel towards the players.
Stevens said he understands if any players are upset that Udoka hasn’t made the squad this season.
“There was a real relationship there with a lot of guys,” Stevens said. “With good reason, they had an incredible year last year. They had a personal connection. There is a problem, both ways. Human beings are human beings, it’s going to be like that. Thinking that the guys on the team or the coaches or anybody else in the organization can just come back on the pitch and be okay is not like that.
“It’s a really, really difficult situation, but we’re going to focus on the future.”
Stevens got emotional defending the female Celtics staff.
In his opening statement, Stevens shared concern about how social media speculated about the situation.
“We have a lot of talented women in our organization, and I thought yesterday was a really tough day for them,” Stevens said, pulling himself together a bit. “I don’t think anyone can control the speculation on Twitter, which is rampant [expletive]but I think as an organization we have a responsibility to be there and support them now, because a lot of people have been unfairly dragged into this.
Grousbeck shared a similar concern.
“It is unfortunate that female Celtics staff members have been dragged into the public eye against their will and inappropriately. We take a strong stand against this and we regret it for them.
Joe Mazzulla has been confirmed as the interim replacement.
Stevens has confirmed reports that Mazzulla will replace Udoka for the 2022-23 season.
“It’s not an easy time for him or the rest of the staff, but he’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person,” Stevens said. “I strongly believe in him and his ability to lead people and his ability to galvanize a room and get them behind him. Also his ability to organize and understand what comes with managing a team during the season.
“They’re a really good group,” Stevens added of the coaching staff. “They’re going to have to stick together. They will have to support each other. »
Stevens dismissed any idea of him as a coach.
Stevens enjoyed eight successful seasons as Celtics coach before moving into his front office role a year ago. But he did not think of returning to the bench.
“Joe is the best choice to do it – hands down,” Stevens said.
What if the Celtics, who aspire to the championship, do not play as well as he would like?
“Absolutely not,” Stevens said.
“There are a lot of factors involved, I wouldn’t even necessarily want to do that,” Stevens added.
Grousbeck, however, seemed open to the idea of Stevens temporarily returning to the bench.
“We had a conversation, brief,” Grousbeck said.
Grousbeck praised Mazzulla afterwards.
Stevens said he considered Mazzulla’s past transgressions “very carefully” before hiring him as an assistant in 2019.
Shortly after it was announced that Mazzulla would be the interim coach of the Celtics, news of Mazzulla’s arrests and charges while in West Virginia (where he played on the basketball team from 2006 to 2011) resurfaced.
Stevens said he has known Mazzulla since the latter joined the Maine Red Claws coaching staff in 2016. He hired Mazzulla as an assistant for his team in 2019, saying he vetted Mazzulla before hiring him. .
“When we considered hiring him as an assistant, I looked into that and the incidents while he was in college extensively,” Stevens said. “I’ll tell you this: I believe in the substance of Joe as a person. I firmly believe. He was very open with me about how those moments impacted him in every way. You can see it in the way it behaves.
Stevens thinks Mazzulla has grown a lot since then.
“You’ve probably seen articles written around this time that I’m sure I read three years ago before I hired him as an assistant,” Stevens said. “I strongly believe that probably shaped him into who he is today, in a very, very good way. He will be the first to tell you that he is 110% responsible for this. I will be the first to tell you that I believe him.
Stevens seemed open to adding another coach to the staff.
With the departure of a coach, it would make sense for the Celtics to add another coach to the staff. Stevens was open to the idea when asked Friday.
“We haven’t had a ton of talk about adding staff,” Stevens said. “I think the staff is checking a lot of boxes as is. There may be an addition. »
Sports Illustratedis Chris Mannix named Frank Vogel as someone who could potentially be added to the staff.
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