CLEVELAND — Celtics guard Marcus Smart said when coach Ime Udoka was suspended for a year in September due to violations of organizational policies, he felt Udoka, who guided the team to to the NBA Finals last June, would be back next season. .
So he was surprised and disappointed on Tuesday when he saw that Udoka, according to multiple reports, would soon be named Steve Nash’s replacement as Nets head coach.
“Obviously we want him here,” Smart told The Globe on Wednesday. “We have no control over it. It really sucks. I guess it was ruled that whatever happened was enough for him not to be the coach here, but I guess not enough for him [not] to coach somewhere else, obviously.
According to league sources, Udoka was suspended due to an inappropriate relationship with a junior employee of the team. He was replaced by interim coach Joe Mazzulla.
“His name was slandered and butchered and it was ‘He’ll probably never coach again,'” Smart said. “And a few months later, he will perhaps become the coach of one of our biggest rivals?
“It’s hard. It makes no sense. But we can’t control that. We have to control what we can, and I love the team here. I love the coaching staff. I love Joe.
Smart is frustrated that the organization has shared few details about Udoka’s situation with the players. When they were told that Udoka would be suspended for one year, they believed in this delay.
“No matter what we say [to the front office]”Smart said. “We can voice our opinion, but I’m sure it’s going to be, ‘Yeah, we hear you.’ And that’s all.
“I’m sure they know how some people feel. But it’s difficult, because there’s not much they can say. It’s a tough place for everyone. It sucks all around.
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said it would have been “great” if Udoka had been able to return to the Celtics next season, and it “spits” that he didn’t return. But above all, he is happy that Udoka has another chance.
“I’m just happy to see a black head coach get back on his feet,” Brown said, “because I’ve seen situations where something like that might not have happened.”
Udoka was banned from communicating with the Celtics during his suspension, and Smart said it was difficult because the players still considered him a friend. He said that in his next conversation with Udoka, he would congratulate him.
“We obviously thought he would be back, but obviously the team and the organization felt differently,” Smart said. “Unfortunately, it’s the commercial aspect and we have to deal with it.
“Now maybe he’ll take a job just down the street and coach the same guys we were trying to beat to get to where we were last year.”
Smart stressed that his support for Udoka is not an affront to Mazzulla, the 34-year-old first coach who guided the Celtics to a 4-2 start.
“You can have more than one best friend,” he said. “It’s just the kind of relationship it is. We love Jo. We love Ime too. Joe understands that and Joe loves him. But we’re definitely excited for Joe and proud of Joe and that’s not fair. for Joe to have to keep hearing that either and going through what he’s going through.
“They are both our brothers and we love them equally. Unfortunately, circumstances required desperate measures and Joe has the coaching job, so we listen to him and walk around with him. We still love Ime, but Joe is our trainer.
Adam Himmelsbach can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.
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