HOUSTON — Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire has agreed to a five-year deal to become Georgia Tech’s head coach. Stoudamire informed Celtics players of his decision around noon on Monday and attended the 111-109 loss to the Rockets that night. He was scheduled to fly to Atlanta afterward.
A league source said the Celtics have no immediate plans to fill the position, but in the short term roles will obviously have to be shuffled as the team continues its quest for a championship.
“I’m still trying to figure that out, trying to see what’s best for the staff, best for the team,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “We’ll take our time trying to figure that out.”
Stoudamire, the 1995-96 NBA Rookie of the Year, retired following a 13-year career as a player in 2008 and had stints as an assistant with the Grizzlies, the University of Memphis and the University of Arizona before being named head coach at the University of the Pacific in 2016. At Georgia Tech, he replaces Josh Pastner, who was fired Saturday after going 109-114 over seven seasons.
“I’m really happy for him,” Mazzulla said. “Him and I have grown to have a great relationship and he’s helped me as a person and a coach. I felt like he was one of the ones that was severely hurt by our situation at the beginning of the year, and the way he handled it with his professionalism and loyalty and his ability to just keep what’s most important in the forefront, he’s an unbelievable person. So, I think Georgia Tech is lucky to have him.”
In 2021, Stoudamire was one of the first additions to the Celtics coaching staff of Ime Udoka, his longtime friend and fellow Portland native. Stoudamire remained with the Celtics after Udoka was suspended and later dismissed for having an improper relationship with a subordinate team employee.
In late December, Stoudamire coached the Celtics to wins over the Rockets and Clippers when Mazzulla was sidelined with eye abrasions.
“He’s been great for this team,” guard Marcus Smart said. “Obviously, it’s sad to hear he’s leaving. But we’re happy for him. He deserves it. He came in not knowing what to expect and made the impact he’s made, helping us go to the Finals and helped me be the better version of myself.”
Stoudamire was the lone member of the staff with extensive NBA playing experience, and Mazzulla said that unique view was helpful throughout this season. Mazzulla recalled one moment prior to a preseason game against the Hornets in October, less than a month after he had been named interim coach, when he was ready to blast the team for a stretch of poor play.
“And [Stoudamire] grabbed my arm and said, ‘Man, it’s a long year,’ ” Mazzulla said. “So he always gave me perspective on how to communicate, what to communicate, what the players are thinking. And he played for a lot of good coaches and teams, and you could always rely on his experience for that.”
NBA fines Smart for altercation
Smart was fined $25,000 by the NBA for initiating an on-court altercation and pulling Hawks guard Trae Young to the floor during Boston’s 134-125 win in Atlanta on Saturday.
With 1:25 left and the Hawks trailing by 8 points, Young was fouled by Smart on a drive to the basket. Smart, who declined interview requests after the game and declined to comment about the situation Monday, appeared to be upset that Young kicked him in the groin area after jumping.
Smart approached Young and put his arm around Young’s lower back before pulling him to the floor. Players from both teams stepped in to stop the altercation, which never escalated.
While Smart received a technical foul and was ejected, Young was only assessed a technical foul for pointing at Smart after the incident.
No Williams or Pritchard
The Celtics remained without center Robert Williams (hamstring) and guard Payton Pritchard (heel) against the Rockets. Williams said he is scheduled to “step it up on the court” during his rehab Tuesday.
“Just more intensity in my workouts, being able to move a little more in my movement,” he said. “Still trying to take it slow, got to listen to [the staff] and watch out for stuff, but got some boxes to check.”