Boston Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, among others, seemingly understand and are happy about the organization naming Joe Mazzulla as the next head coach. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy to see one-year coach Ime Udoka leave.
Udoka, after all, created a strong connection with Tatum and others on the 2021-22 team. He helped Boston to a remarkable in-season turnaround before the Celtics reached the NBA Finals. That, of course, took place before Udoka was suspended by the organization in September. At the time, Udoka was suspended due to violations of team policy, which reportedly stemmed from an improper relationship with a female staffer after Udoka made “unwanted” comments and used “crude language” with the individual.
Tatum told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn for a story published Saturday that he’s kept in contact with Udoka, speaking to him on occasion this season.
“It’s been a tough situation for everybody involved,” Tatum told Washburn. “Whatever happened, happened and that didn’t have anything to do with me. But that can’t take away the relationship that we have and the impact that he had on me for that one reason.”
Tatum went on to reflect on all the coaches he’s had and referred to Udoka as his “most favorite coach.”
“I love Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski). I love Brad (Stevens). I love Joe (Mazzulla). I love all those guys,” Tatum said. “It was just a different kind of relationship I had with Ime. Probably the most favorite coach I’ve had and that’s not a knock on anybody. I’ve got a great relationship with Joe. I love everything he’s doing. I’m extremely happy for him. Brad helped me navigate the NBA. I was 19. He helped watch me grow and put me in the right spots. So I have a different perspective and respect for each coach that I’ve had at different times of my life.”
Tatum wasn’t the only one to speak fondly and positively about Udoka. Brown hopes Udoka now can move forward elsewhere, too.
Brown told Washburn: “I want to see him back on his feet. I said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t feel bad for saying that. I want to see Ime back on his feet. Obviously it won’t be in a Boston uniform. I want to see all partners win. I think the Celtics are doing fine. I would like to see Ime do fine.”
Tatum, Brown and others are happy about Mazzulla being granted the opportunity he’s earned. Mazzulla stepped in when Udoka was suspended and now has helped the Celtics to a league-best record prior to the NBA All-Star break, after all. But there nevertheless are some mixed emotions about how the events have played out.