By Sarafina Napoleon
Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.
September 24, 2022
After a terrific first season as head coach of the Boston Celtics, Ime Udoka finds himself in unfamiliar territory. A territory that might be a tipping point in his career, and he is on the verge of losing everything, and the big question is: Is there a way back for him?
September 21, 2022, will be a day to forget for the ex-international as the news of his consensual sexual relationship with an unnamed staff member of the organization made it to the media. As reported by ESPN, his relationship with the staff member was “considered a violation of the organization’s guidelines;” hence he will have to face the music.
Udoka is out of the entire 2022-2023 NBA season due to suspension, with the franchise releasing an official communication late Thursday. According to unconfirmed reports, his assistant Joe Mazzulla will likely serve as interim coach for the 2022-23 NBA season.
It is imperative to state that before this saga, Udoka had been a huge part of the success story of the Boston Celtics since he joined the team after stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets. His Celtics’ team recorded wins last season over the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference title. He guided them to the NBA Finals but lost in Game 6 to the Golden State Warriors, becoming the fifth coach in the last 25 years to make the Finals in his first year. He also secured a fourth-place finish in Coach of the Year voting. After a stellar outing last season, the fans had high hopes. They looked forward to a new season expecting the team to continue from where they left off last season, but this time it will be without head coach Ime Udoka.
It is important to note that we do not regularly see a coach’s lengthy suspension in the NBA. Last season, Mike Batiste of the Washington Wizards was handed a two-game suspension for entering the stands. In 2013, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd faced a two game suspension. Still, an entire season suspension of an active coach has never happened recently and possibly in the history of the NBA.
There are also reservations about the media’s role in bringing to light the coach’s relationship with the unnamed staff member and how he has been portrayed.
Furthermore, are the Boston Celtics innocent of how they handled the issue?
One pertinent question to ask is how the information got to the media. Who leaked the information? Couldn’t such seismic news be dealt with internally?
Another angle to consider is the need to conceal the identity of the “unnamed staff member” while revealing coach Udoka’s, more without hesitation. Why is the coach alone facing the repercussions of an action that two adults carried out?
The club released an official statement that only captured Udoka’s punishment. Why? Is cheating not wrong on all levels and unfair to the partners of those involved? Still, a season suspension and the possibility of getting fired for breaking a code of conduct termed “Consensual” is absolute madness and arguable.
The role the media played in the reportage of the incident cannot be overlooked. It was at no point stated or reported that Udoka coerced the staff member into the relationship, so why did the media report it as a criminal incident? The coach committed an offense against the franchise owners and his fiancé Nia Long, not a crime against the government. The problem with the media reportage of the incident is that it has largely swayed how the franchise chose to deal with it. One could also argue that the media coverage of the incident could be about the color of his skin, which is my perspective as a Nigerian. Would the media come for his head if it were a white coach? Your guess is as good as mine.