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Nia Long, the longtime Boston Celtics fiancée, was reportedly caught off guard by his reported affair with a female member of the team’s staff, which resulted in his one-year suspension, even though the club confronted him with the investigation months ago.
Long, the 51-year-old former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star, had moved to the Boston area two weeks ago with the couple’s 10-year-old son and had recently been house-hunting with Udoka, according to TMZ.
She was reportedly unaware of the allegations until recent days, even though the Celtics had been investigating the matter for months with Udoka’s knowledge, TMZ reports.
Now, through her spokeswoman, Long asks for privacy.
“The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community at this difficult time means so much to me,” Long told TMZ through her spokeswoman. “I ask that my privacy be respected in processing the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and I will continue to focus on my children.’
Udoka, the Celtics sophomore head coach with a once stellar record, was banned Thursday from the entire upcoming season for “multiple” unspecified team rule violations. He was also given a “significant financial fine.”
Reports say the 45-year-old had an inappropriate but consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff, but that hardly explains why Udoka is being sidelined for 2022-23, and possibly longer. In the team statement appointing assistant Joe Mazzulla as interim coach, Boston said Udoka’s future would be determined “at a later date.”
Longtime Boston Celtics fiancée, Nia Long, was reportedly caught off guard by his reported affair with a female member of the team’s staff, which resulted in his one-year suspension, even though the club confronted him with the investigation months ago.
Udoka led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as the team’s head coach
The situation is puzzling, not only because Boston sidelined a coach who led the team to the NBA finals in his first season, but also because the Celtics have turned a seemingly personal and allegedly consensual relationship into a public affair — something Stephen A from ESPN Smith seized Friday.
“My problem is his personal affairs are being published all over the airways,” Smith said, wondering why a suspension was necessary.
Celtics legend Paul Pierce also argued on Twitter that Udoka’s sentence should be “just a fine, not a suspension.”
The Athletic questioned the relationship on Thursday night, reporting that Udoka was accused by the woman of making “unwanted comments” against her, prompting the Celtics to start internal interviews that ultimately led to his suspension.
Further complicating matters is Udoka’s shady relationship with Long.
A report, from Bally Sports, claims the pair “broke up before the current issue,” but the two appeared to be on good terms back in May, when the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tweeted a video of himself was partying as his Celtics qualified for the finals.
Then there was Udoka’s own statement on Thursday, which made a cryptic reference to disappointing his loved ones: “I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for disappointing them.”
Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce said the Udoka should just be fined and not suspended
The Celtics would open a training camp on Tuesday as a natural favorite to reach the finals again and potentially compete for an NBA-record 18th championship.
Instead, Boston now faces leadership questions as Udoka fights to save his once-promising career.
Udoka’s career had thus far been a story of perseverance.
He wasn’t blessed with great physical gifts, but his love of the game and 6-foot-6 frame formed a strong foundation growing up in Portland, where he eventually befriended the future NBA star and his assistant at the Celtics, Damon Stoudemire.
“Growing up, one of the things that motivated me to go to the NBA was whatever my colleagues did, I was going to do the opposite,” Udoka told The Athletic in April. ‘Is everyone partying? The kicking? hanging out? I’m going to open gym. I didn’t go to the prom. I didn’t go to graduation. I was at the gym.’
He played at three colleges before graduating from Portland State University and eventually starting his professional career with the NBDL with the Charleston Lowgators.
Brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, French teams and G-League teams would follow, before Udoka started seeing more action with the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers and, eventually, the San Antonio Spurs.
It was in San Antonio, under coach Gregg Popovich, that Udoka developed into a reliable perimeter defender.
“My thing was always thinking about the game,” Udoka said. “And if you can’t, you outdo your more able opponent by being stronger physically and mentally.”
After briefly playing for Sacramento and later returning to San Antonio, Udoka landed one of the most coveted jobs in coaching as an assistant to Popovich.
The two would go on to win an NBA title together in 2014, and Udoka would soon come to embody the Popovich ethos of coaching.
“He assimilated with the Pop philosophy,” one NBA executive told the New York Post in 2020. ‘Udoka is someone who is very driven, meticulous and hard on himself. He’s a perfectionist.’
Popovich gushed about his protégé to ESPN in 2015: “He exudes confidence and comfort in his own skin where people just gravitate to him.”
Coach Pop also gave Udoka a retarded compliment by joking that he is a teetotaler.
“The only thing I don’t like about him is that he doesn’t drink, so I can’t enjoy a glass of wine with him,” Popovich said. “He’s really boring at dinner.”
Udoka quickly became one of the hottest assistant coach prospects in the NBA, earning prestigious bench appearances for the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, before being hired by former Celtics head coach and president Brad Stevens in Boston for the 2021-22 season. .
At the time, former Udoka colleague Kirk Goldsberry tweeted that Boston had made an “amazing hire.”
However, the first results were not good.
Despite the presence of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Boston struggled for much of the first half of Udoka’s first season and around .500 until January, when players took his lessons to heart to close out the regular season. , 51-31.
“He definitely set a tone,” Celtics guard Payton Pritchard told The Athletic. “That’s Ime to a T. That’s what we needed.”
The Celtics then steamed through the first round of the playoffs, winning the hated Nets in four games for hard-fought seven-game series wins over defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and top-seeded Miami Heat.
Despite the six-game NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, Udoka’s stock couldn’t have been higher in the off-season. A young coach who came out of the finals in his first season was likely looking at a significant raise in a renegotiated contract, Smith said Friday.
“That means he was in a position to triple his salary,” Smith said.
But for all the positivity that Udoka’s first year as Celtics head coach has created, the Celtics have faced one obstacle after another off-season.
Free-agent acquisition Danilo Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee over the summer, and it was revealed earlier this week that starting center Robert Williams would require arthroscopic surgery to clear his left knee. Williams is expected to miss between four and six weeks, but Gallinari could be out significantly longer.
More pressing is the situation facing Mazzulla, a relatively unknown quantity going into the season.
The former Division II Fairmont State head coach, Mazzulla, is a local man, hailing from Rhode Island. He played collegiately under Bob Huggins in West Virginia, where he was once banned for domestic violence in 2009.
Now 34, Mazzulla is counted to be the answer in Boston, even though he’s only slated to take the job next season.
“Joe is going to join. It’s not easy timing for him or the rest of the staff,” Celtics president Brad Stevens said at Friday’s press conference. “But he is an exceptionally sharp and talented person and I believe strongly in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to brighten up a room and get behind him and his ability to organize and organize everything.” understand what it takes to run a team over a season. He has really good experiences with the man’s staff.’