Marcus Smart says it ‘sucks’ that Ime Udoka could join Nets after Celtics suspension

‘His name was slandered and slaughtered… and he’s possibly going to coach our rivals’: Marcus Smart says it ‘sucks’ that Ime Udoka could join the Nets and says Celtics team ‘wish he was here’ – after he was suspended for an affair with a team staffer

  • Celtics coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season in September for an alleged improper relationship with a female staffer
  • But his time away from the sport doesn’t look like it’ll last long as it was reported Tuesday that the Nets are moving towards hiring him as their head coach
  • The moves comes after Brooklyn parted with Steve Nash just seven games in
  • And Marcus Smart is not pleased to see Udoka go to one of Boston’s rivals
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart expressed disappointment Wednesday that suspended coach Ime Udoka looks set to join the Nets just months after leading the team to the NBA Finals.

Udoka had a tremendous first season in charge of Boston but was suspended by the team in September for the entirety of the 2022-23 season due to an alleged improper relationship with a female staffer.

And while players believed Udoka would be back on the Celtics sideline in a year, according to the Boston Globe, multiple reports Tuesday indicated he was on his way to Brooklyn to replace the fired Steve Nash. 

Ime Udoka coached Marcus Smart last season with the Celtics, and led the team to the Finals

‘Obviously, we wish he was here,’ Smart told the Globe. ‘We have no control over that. It definitely sucks. 

‘I guess it was deemed that whatever happened was enough for him not to be the coach here, but I guess not enough for him [not] to be a coach anywhere else, obviously.’

ESPN reported that an independent investigation revealed Udoka ‘used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship,’ which played a factor into his suspension.

The outlet also reported that the first-year coach faced a ‘difficult pathway’ back to the Celtics after the team banned him and installed assistant Joe Mazzulla as interim head coach.

Joe Mazzulla was named the interim head coach in the wake of Udoka's team suspension

Joe Mazzulla was named the interim head coach in the wake of Udoka’s team suspension

Now, Udoka looks set to take over the Nets less than ten games into the season.   

‘His name got slandered and slaughtered and it was ‘He’ll probably never coach again,’ Smart said. ‘And a couple of months later, now he’s possibly going to be the coach of one of our biggest rivals?

‘It’s tough. 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.’

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was also disappointed not to see Udoka back on the Boston sideline, though he was able to find a positive in the thorny situation.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have won just one playoff series together on the Nets

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have won just one playoff series together on the Nets

‘I’m just happy to see a black head coach end up back on his feet,’ Brown told the Globe, ‘because I’ve seen situations where something like this might not have been the case.’

The Nets are banking on Udoka, who served as an assistant under Nash during the 2020-21 season, as a last-ditch effort to build a contender around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Along with now-former Net James Harden, the pair formed the league’s best offense in the 2020-21 season before falling to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the second round. Both Irving and Harden misses games to due injury in the series.

Other than that promising season, however, the Irving and Durant era has been a failure to date.

Irving played just 29 regular season games last season after refusing to get vaccinated for COVID and violating the local mandate, and Durant has missed extensive time with injuries throughout his Nets tenure.

Now the team will hope that defensive specialist Udoka, along with Ben Simmons, can stiffen up a team that has coughed up points the last few years.

Simmons, who arrived in Brooklyn last season via trade for the wantaway Harden, has struggled mightily on offense thus far with just 6.2 points per game, and he’s missed the last two games with a knee injury.

The Nets fell to 2-6 Tuesday night after a home loss to the Bulls, with a trip to Washington to face the Wizards up next. 


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