Thursday, April 27, 2023

Joe Mazzulla reacts to Ime Udoka becoming Houston Rockets new head coach

On Wednesday the Houston Rockets introduced their new head coach Ime Udoka in a press conference.

The former Celtics coach was hired on Monday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, eight months after his suspension that led to Udoka's exit from Boston.

Udoka spoke briefly on the situation for the first time since his initial statement when he was suspended by the Celtics. 
"I released a statement months ago when everything happened and apologized to a lot of people for the tough position I put them in," Udoka said in his Wednesday presser. "I stand by that, and I feel much more remorse even now towards that. I've spent this last offseason working on myself in a lot of different ways, improving in areas with a chance to sit back, reflect, and grow. I think that will make me a better coach and a better leader. But, the matter has been resolved and I can't really speak much about it."
The Celtics suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season following multiple team policy violations involving a relationship with a female staffer.

Joe Mazzulla was named interim head coach, before the C's severed ties with Udoka just prior to the All-Star break in February and removing the interim tag on Mazzulla.

The Celtics head coach spoke to the media before the team's Game 5 loss at home to the Atlanta Hawks, to which Mazzulla said he congratulated Udoka via text message when asked about the Rockets new head coach and how in life everyone needs a second chance.
"Second chances are important. Grace is important. Forgiveness is important. I'm a product of a second chance. I think it's important to have that in society," Mazzulla said in his pre-game comments.
The Rockets and owner Tilman Fertitta, believe Udoka hasn't done anything that suggests he shouldn't be given another opportunity to coach in the NBA -- based on the research that was done by the organization.
"It was a tough decision, but it wasn't," Fertitta said. "Because there was one person that we felt was an exceptional candidate to take us to the next level. We're just so excited to have Ime. He is everything that the Rockets were looking for. We did so much due diligence on this gentleman, going back to his playing days. We just got a glowing report, and we're extremely, extremely happy."
Celtics guard Marcus Smart says though he misses Udoka, he's glad his former head coach has been given a second chance with another franchise.
"I'm still emotional about it," Smart said prior to Game 5 Tuesday. "We built a connection together. For him not to be here was tough but like I said I'm happy for him. I'm happy he got a second chance"
Udoka also stated he went through sensitivity training and counseling with his son, which helped him realize how his actions affected those around him -- adding that the Celtics were within their rights to let him go over his behavior.
"Yeah, I mean, honestly my part in it was to take ownership and accountability for my part," Udoka said. "They had a choice to make a decision, and they went that route. My thing was own up to it, take responsibility, and I served the suspension. I had to own it honestly. Same thing that I preach to the guys. I can't sit here and not take accountability myself."
When it comes to those critical of the Rockets' decision to hire Udoka as their new head coach, Fertitta had one simple message regarding forgiveness.
"We're a forgiving world. And anyone who isn't forgiving, then shame on them."
The Rockets have 14% odds to get the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft, while also having roughly $60 million in cap space to potentially spend this offseason.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy Getty Images

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