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Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s fiancé Nia Long ‘was BLINDSIDED by his affair with a female staffer’

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s longtime fiancee Nia Long was reportedly blindsided by his reported affair with a female member of the team’s staff, resulting in his yearlong suspension, even though the club had confronted him about 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 the past few days, even though the Celtics had been investigating the matter with Udoka’s knowledge for months, TMZ reports.

Now, through his spokeswoman, Long is asking for privacy.

“The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community during this difficult time means so much to me,” Long told TMZ through his spokeswoman. ‘I ask that my privacy be respected while I process the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and will continue to focus on my children.’

Udoka, the Celtics’ second-year head coach with a once-excellent reputation, was suspended Thursday for the entire upcoming season for “multiple” unspecified violations of team rules. He also suffered a “significant financial penalty.”

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 will be sidelined for 2022-23, and potentially beyond. In the team statement naming assistant Joe Mazzulla as interim coach, Boston said Udoka’s future would be determined ‘at a later date.’

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka's longtime fiancee Nia Long was reportedly blindsided by his reported affair with a female member of the team's staff, resulting in his yearlong suspension, even though the club had confronted him about the investigation months ago.
Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka's longtime fiancee Nia Long was reportedly blindsided by his reported affair with a female member of the team's staff, resulting in his yearlong suspension, even though the club had confronted him about the investigation months ago.

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s longtime fiancee Nia Long was reportedly blindsided by his reported affair with a female member of the team’s staff, resulting in his yearlong suspension, even though the club had confronted him about the investigation months ago.

Udoka guided the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as the team's head coach
Udoka guided the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as the team's head coach

Udoka guided 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 is sidelining a coach who guided the team to the NBA Finals in his first season, but also because the Celtics have turned an apparently private and reportedly consent into a public matter — something ESPN’s Stephen A Smith seized on Friday.

“My problem is you have his personal business published all over the airways,” Smith said, questioning why a suspension was necessary.

Celtics legend Paul Pierce also claimed on Twitter that Udoka’s punishment ‘should just be a fine, not a suspension.’

The Athletic raised questions about the relationship Thursday night, reporting that Udoka was accused by the woman of making ‘unsolicited comments’ to her, prompting the Celtics to launch 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 were ‘separated before the current issue’, but the two appeared to be on good terms as recently as May when the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tweeted a video of himself dancing at a party. when his Celtics qualified for the Finals.

Then there was Udoka’s own statement Thursday, which made a cryptic reference to disappointing loved ones: ‘I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization and my family for letting them down.’

The Celtics should open training camp on Tuesday as a logical favorite to reach the Finals again and potentially compete for an NBA-record 18th championship.

Instead, Boston now faces leadership questions as Udoka struggles to save his once-promising career.

Until now, Udoka’s career had been a tale of perseverance.

He wasn’t blessed with great physical gifts, but his love of the game and 6-foot-6 frame were a strong foundation growing up in Portland, where he eventually befriended the future NBA star and his assistant with the Celtics, Damon Stoudemire.

“Growing up, one of the things I used to motivate me to come to the NBA was whatever my peers were doing, I wanted to do the opposite,” Udoka told The Athletic in April. ‘Is everyone out partying? Does it kick? Hanging out? I’m going to an open gym. I didn’t go to prom. I didn’t go to the exam. I was at the gym.’

He played at three colleges before graduating from Portland State University and ultimately starting his professional career in the NBDL with the Charleston Lowgators.

Brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, French teams and G-League teams would follow before Udoka began 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 do that, you will outperform your more skilled opponent by being physically and mentally tougher.’

After playing briefly 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 win an NBA title together in 2014, and Udoka would soon come to embody the Popovich ethos of coaching.

“He assimilated into the pop philosophy,” an NBA executive told the New York Post in 2020. “Udoka is someone who is very driven, meticulous, hard on himself. He’s a perfectionist.’

Gushing about his protégé in 2015, Popovich told ESPN: ‘He exudes a confidence and a comfort in his own skin where people just gravitate to him.’

Coach Pop also gave Udoka a backhanded 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 coaching prospects in the NBA, landing prestigious gigs on the benches of the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets before being hired by former Celtics head coach-turned-president Brad Stevens in Boston ahead of the 2021-22 season.

At the time, former Udoka colleague Kirk Goldsberry tweeted that Boston made a ‘good hire’.

However, the initial return was 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 hovered around .500 until January, when players began to take his lessons to heart to end the regular season , 51-31.

“He definitely set a tone,” Celtics guard Payton Pritchard told The Athletic. “It’s Ime to a T. It was what we needed.”

The Celtics then steamrolled through the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the hated Nets in four games before hard-fought seven-game series wins over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and top-seeded Miami Heat.

Despite the six-game NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, Udoka’s stock could not have been higher heading into the offseason. A young coach coming off a finals appearance in his first season was likely looking for a significant raise in a renegotiated contract, Smith said Friday.

“That means he was able to triple his salary,” Smith said.

But for all the positivity generated by Udoka’s first year as Celtics head coach, the Celtics have faced one obstacle after another in the offseason.

Free-agent acquisition Danilo Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee over the summer, and earlier this week it was revealed that starting center Robert Williams will have arthroscopic surgery to clean out 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 for Mazzulla, a relatively unknown quantity heading into the season.

The former head coach at Division II Fairmont State, Mazzulla is a local guy hailing from Rhode Island. He played collegiately under Bob Huggins at West Virginia, where he was once suspended for domestic battery in 2009.

Now 34, Mazzulla is considered the answer in Boston, although he is only slated to have the job until next season.

“Joe will be in. 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’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person and I’m a big believer in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to energize a room and get behind him and his ability to organize and understand everything that follows with running a team over the course of a season. He’s done really well on man’s staff.’

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