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dan shaughnessy

Ime Udoka has put the Celtics in a terrible position, and other thoughts

Ime Udoka has acknowledged his wrongdoing and accepted his punishment from the Celtics.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Picked-up pieces while anticipating a big bowl of awkward at Monday’s Celtics Media Day …

▪ Ime Udoka is suspended for a year, and it’s hard to imagine him returning to the Celtics bench. Rumors of the suspension first leaked Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours later, in a short statement (issued during “Thursday Night Football” and Red Sox vs. Aaron Judge), the Celtics announced that their coach was suspended for “violations” of team policy. Minutes later, Udoka issued his own brief statement, apologizing to everyone and accepting the team’s decision.

Friday morning, a full 36 hours after first reports of the scandal were leaked, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens finally met with the media, acknowledging that they’d known for a couple of months about Udoka’s inappropriate relationship with a female member of the team’s staff. The Celtics bosses said they’d commissioned a law firm to investigate the situation during the summer and just got the firm’s findings Wednesday.

The legal investigation, the coach’s hefty suspension, and Grousbeck’s acknowledgment that only Udoka was punished indicate that there was something more regarding Udoka’s conduct.


Speculation has run rampant and will continue to do so, given the high-profile nature of the Celtics, potential liability, and the team’s need to protect privacy. Both Grousbeck and Stevens acknowledged damage already done to female members of the organization who have seen their names and photos floated in the cesspool of social media.

Stevens was nearly moved to tears Friday when he said, “We have a lot of talented women in our organization and I thought [Thursday] was really hard on them. Nobody can control Twitter speculation and rampant [expletive], but I do think that we as an organization have a responsibility to make sure that we’re there to support them now because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that.”


Nothing about this story is good. And it’s not going to get better soon. Not with all the unanswered questions that newly plague this organization. Udoka, who took the team to the NBA Finals in his one season, has put the Celtics in a terrible spot.

Say hello to your new coach, Joe Mazzulla, who is 34 years old and has been a head coach only at Fairmont State, a Division 2 school in West Virginia. It’s a thin résumé for a man who has just been handed the keys to a Rolls-Royce that is expected to drive back to the NBA Finals.

I’d feel better if Stevens came back to coach for a year. I’d feel better if Frank Vogel were brought in as a caretaker. I’d feel better if Larry Bird came out of retirement to return to the bench for a year.

Nope. It’s Joe Mazzulla, pride of Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, R.I.

Dark days on Causeway Street. Feels like nothing has gone right for this team since Bill Russell died on the last day of July.

▪ Celtics vice president of public relations Heather Walker had some time with President Biden when POTUS visited the JFK Library as part of his trip to Boston Sept. 12. Walker, a mother of two who joined the Celtics in 2006, has been battling glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer) since the summer of 2021 and made her way to Dorchester with her husband, Stephen, when Biden was in town to promote his Cancer Moonshot initiative.


Biden’s son Beau died of glioblastoma in 2015, and the president recognized Walker’s plight when he met her in a receiving line before his speech. Recalling the encounter, Walker said, “He said, ‘Oh, my God, you poor baby,’ and just hugged me like someone who had known me for years. It was the sweetest thing. He said, ‘Someday, we’re going to cure this.’

“It helps when you are going through something so horrible to have a moment like that. I started crying and he gave me a handkerchief to keep. He said, ‘This is about all of us.’ ”

▪ Quiz: Aaron Judge has a chance to win the American League Triple Crown. Name baseball’s last five Triple Crown winners and the years in which they won (answer below).

▪ Wonder why professional athletes don’t necessarily trust team doctors? Look at the cases of Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock and Celtics center Robert Williams III.

The Sox foolishly had Whitlock pitching meaningless games in recent weeks even though he was limping with a right hip impingement. They finally shut him down Wednesday and announced he’ll undergo hip surgery in New York this coming week.

In his second major league season, Garrett Whitlock pitched 78⅓ innings in 31 games (9 starts).Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Celtics at least had a reason to play Williams in the 2022 playoffs after his March surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. Now Williams has had another operation on the same knee, and he’ll probably be out again at the start of the season.


▪ Enjoy him while it lasts: Dennis Eckersley is scheduled to work seven more Red Sox games before retiring from the booth. Eck will be high above Fenway for all four games with the Orioles starting Monday. He’ll be back for the final three games of the season Oct. 3-5.

▪ Most Buffalo Thing Ever: Students in the Orchard Park and Frontier Central school districts near Highmark Stadium were granted early release last Monday to make way for Bills-Titans on “Monday Night Football” at 7:15.

▪ Grousbeck told the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, “I think we’re spending about $200 million on the roster this year, and Brad has the green light to spend more … You can actually look at what we do, which is do whatever we possibly can to win a championship … Money is not a consideration whatsoever, and this roster shows that.”

Wow. Remember the good old days when the Red Sox ran their team this way?

▪ Retired South Shore dentist Jim Lonborg, who turned 80 this year, gave up Mickey Mantle’s 536th and final homer on Sept. 20, 1968. Lonborg went the distance and beat the Yankees, 4-3, at Yankee Stadium.

▪ In a column about Bill Belichick last weekend, this space made an ancient reference to “nattering nabobs of negativism” regarding a surge of criticism directed at the Hoodie. A few old-timers remembered that it was the late Spiro T. Agnew — onetime governor of Maryland and most famous as Richard Nixon’s vice president — who uttered the memorable alliteration.


What few know is that young Billy Belichick caddied for Agnew while growing up in Annapolis. I wasn’t able to get Bill to tell me whether Agnew was a good tipper.

▪ Sticking to our political theme, are you aware that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was baseball captain at Yale, where he teamed with former Red Sox lefthander Craig Breslow?

DeSantis grew up in Dunedin, Fla., spring home of the Blue Jays, and played on a Little League team that went all the way to Williamsport. His Dunedin High School team beat future big leaguer Rick Ankiel in a state semifinal, and DeSantis batted .313 in four seasons at Yale.

Late President George Bush was Yale’s captain in 1948 and was famously photographed with Babe Ruth when the dying Bambino came to New Haven that spring .

The great Babe Ruth meets a future president, Yale baseball captain George Bush.Consolidated White House

▪ Time Flies Dept.: I remember seeing Florida State catcher Buster Posey dominate a weekend series against Boston College at Commander Shea Field in 2008. Posey went on to win three World Series with the Giants and at the age of 35 is about to become part of the Giants ownership group. He’ll be up for the Hall of Fame in 2027.

▪ Analytics guys love Triston Casas because he has a low “chase rate,” but at what point can we ask about Casas’s abysmal batting average, which rose to .130 with his home run on Saturday? So far he looks like Sam Horn with a much better glove.

▪ If Joe Thornton can play another 66 NHL regular-season games, he’ll have played in more games than anyone else in NHL history. The top five are Patrick Marleau, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis.

Joe Thornton, the Bruins' No. 1 draft pick in 1997, is now an NHL graybeard.Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

▪ Soccer legend David Beckham queued up at Westminster Hall and waited 12 hours to bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth.

▪ Georgia Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker continues to amaze with his blundering campaign. He’s scheduled to debate his opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock, Oct. 14, but warned his supporters, “He’s going to show up and embarrass me at the debate.”

▪ Speaking of nitwits, Kyrie Irving went on Instagram and shared a discredited conspiracy theory about the New World Order titled, “Alex Jones tried to warn us.”

▪ The Sports Museum’s 21st annual “Tradition” will be at the Garden at 6 p.m. Dec. 7. This year’s honorees will be named in the next few weeks.

▪ Condolences to former BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo and his family. Gene’s 97-year-old father died in a car crash in South Deerfield on Labor Day morning.

Eugene B. DeFilippo was a World War II veteran, a Holy Cross quarterback in the 1946 Orange Bowl, and a longtime history teacher and coach at Northampton High School. He made a lasting impression on generations of young people in the Northampton community. His grandson, John DeFilippo, is quarterbacks coach of the Chicago Bears.

▪ RIP Jerry D’Alfonso, grandfather of the late Pete Frates and the man who invented the Globe’s Living/Arts section. A fixture at BC baseball games when Pete was patrolling the outfield for the Eagles, Jerry lived to the age of 90 and died Sept. 20.

▪ Quiz answer: Miguel Cabrera (2012), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Frank Robinson (1966), Mantle (1956), Ted Williams (1942 and ‘47).

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.