Ime Udoka was introduced as the next head coach of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday but unsurprisingly was left answering questions about his former job.
Udoka, who was suspended and ultimately let go by the Celtics for violations of team policy, made his first public comments Wednesday since his exit. The Celtics announced the suspension of Udoka on Sept. 22 and reports have indicated he had an improper relationship with a female staffer.
Udoka deflected when asked what he could share about the situation.
“Overall, I released a statement months ago when everything happened and apologized to a lot of people for the tough position I put them in, and I stand by that,” Udoka told reporters, per the Rockets. “I feel much more remorse even now towards that. So I spent this last offseason working on myself in a lot of different ways, improving in areas, chance to sit back, reflect and grow. And I think that will make me a better coach and overall a better leader. But the situation, the matter has been resolved, and I can’t really speak much about it.”
When pressed about what Udoka had done to improve personally, he shared how he took leadership and sensitivity training, along with counseling with his son. Udoka has a son with well-known actress Nia Long. Long shared her and Udoka no longer are in a relationship following his intimate relationship with a staffer, though has expressed frustration with how the Celtics handled the situation.
Udoka was asked if he believed the Celtics were “justified” in their reaction.
“Yeah, I mean, honestly, my part in it was to take ownership and accountability for my part. They had a choice to make a decision and they went that route and my thing was, own up to it, take responsibility and I served the suspension and had to own it, honestly,” Udoka said. “So same thing I’ll preach to the guys, I can’t sit here and not take accountability myself. So it was their right to go about it however they wanted to and that was the choice they took.”
Rockets general manager Rafael Stone confirmed the organization did have access to the Celtics’ independent investigation. The investigation reportedly found Udoka used “crude” language in his dialogue with a female subordinate before starting an improper relationship with the woman.
“We got comfortable it was an appropriate hire, and that we were comfortable in the process,” Stone told reporters.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta added: “We’re a forgiving society and everybody makes mistakes. Some things maybe we shouldn’t forgive people for but I think what happened in his personal situation is definitely something we forgive for.”