Several Boston Celtics players said they were blindsided by head coach Ime Udoka's scandal and suspension during the team's media day on Monday (September 26).
Guard Marcus Smart, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and longest-tenured Celtics player, said he a "a couple" of teammates recently met with Udoka to discuss the team's championship pursuit in Los Angeles during the offseason, having been unaware that the Celtics had already launched an investigation into the coach, which was not made public until last week.
"That's why it seems so off guard to us, because everything seemed so normal," Smart said via Yahoo Sports.
The Celtics announced Udoka's suspension for the entirety of the upcoming 2022-23 last Thursday (September 22).
"A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date," the team said in a news release. "The suspension takes effect immediately."
Adrian Wojnarowski, who initially reported that Udoka was "facing possible disciplinary action," which included "a significant suspension" in relation to what was, at the time, described as "an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines," last Wednesday (September 21) night.
Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum told reporters that he found out about Udoka's possible suspension "on Twitter like everybody else," a sentiment that was echoed by forward Grant Williams.
"I found out the same as everyone else," Williams said.
The Athletic's Shams Charania initially reported that Udoka "had an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team staff," which led to the franchise looking into potential disciplinary action, following Wojnarowski's initial report.
Charania has since removed "consensual" from his description of the relationship and has since cited sources who claimed that "the woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her."
Udoka was hired as the Celtics' head coach last offseason, replacing Brad Stevens, who was promoted to president of basketball operations following longtime team team president Danny Ainge's retirement.
Boston went 51-31 during the 2021-22 regular season and defeated the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference title before being eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Udoka, a former NBA player, had previously worked as an assistant with the Nets prior to the 2021-22 season, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20 and the San Antonio Spurs from 2012-19.
The Celtics coach has been in a relationship with actress Nia Long since 2010 and the couple became engaged in 2015.