Ime Udoka’s family was evicted from their apartment once when he was young. The electricity got shut off another time. The story goes, they didn’t even own a television.
Udoka lived in a motel for a while, rode the bus to open gyms and worked the nightshift at FedEx. He endured knee surgeries and overcame poverty. His ascension from Portland kid to NBA player to head coach of the Boston Celtics sure felt special.
I loved his story.
Now, he looks selfish and dumb.
Udoka had an improper consensual relationship with a Celtics employee. The woman reportedly told the NBA franchise that Udoka later made unwelcome comments, triggering an internal investigation last summer. On Thursday, the Celtics suspended Udoka for one year.
Who was she? A subordinate? Business side? Or a basketball-operations staffer? Social-media sleuths had at it this week. There are a limited number of female employees listed on the Celtics’ website, and speculation ran wild. So did screenshots of their faces and names, posted across social platforms.
I couldn’t help but think of each of them, and how little they deserved the scrutiny.
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka wrote in a statement.
The coach risked damage to his career and reputation. He’s facing what could be a career-killing incident. He accepted responsibility and apologized. But be clear — the Celtics blew it, too.
Management subjected the franchise to ridicule. Worse yet, the Celtics let the news leak in a way that victimized every woman employed by the franchise. Then, in a tone-deaf encore, the NBA team replaced Udoka with an interim coach who has a domestic-battery charge on his criminal record.
A Google search of “Joe Mazzulla” raises all kinds of questions. He was once cited for public urination. In 2008, he was arrested at a Pittsburgh Pirates’ game for underage drinking and aggravated assault. The following year, he was arrested and charged with domestic battery after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck at a bar called “De Lady Lizard” in West Virginia.
Mazzulla’s crimes were a decade-plus ago. I’m all for second — or third — chances. But given the undertone of the Udoka story, promoting a person with a domestic-battery charge was the last thing Boston should have done.
The hope here is that this is the end of the story. That Udoka, in a position of authority, made a judgment error. One that he’ll learn and grow from. He got what he deserved. But I’m pretty sure this is just the beginning for the Celtics.
A few things I learned this week…
• Bo Nix, Oregon’s starting quarterback, already has a communications degree from Auburn. He earned it in only three years. I talked with Nix on Thursday in a 1-on-1. Currently at UO, Nix said: “I’m taking kind of random classes to stay eligible.”
• Oregon State defensive back Jaydon Grant, a seventh-year senior who has multiple degrees, told me that he’s also taking the minimum nine credits to stay eligible. His only in-person class this term is yoga.
“Definitely can’t complain,” Grant said.
• I told Nix about Grant’s course load and the Oregon QB shot back, “Yoga was the type of class I was looking for.”
• Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano told Buffaloes beat reporter Brian Howell that the remaining members of the Pac-12 are galvanized. Said DiStefano: “The 10 schools are sticking together and I believe we’ll end up with a very favorable media rights (deal) coming up.”
• Caesar’s Sportsbook says more money has been wagered on Oregon State to cover the current 6.5-point spread vs. USC than any other college or NFL game this week. Caesars reported that more than 88 percent of the money wagered on the game was on the underdog Beavers. That included a $110,000 bet on Oregon State plus-7 points.
• I polled some current and former defensive coordinators in the Pac-12 about the Oregon State vs. USC matchup. Those who answered told me they thought OSU quarterback Chance Nolan was much improved and that USC’s defense struggled with “gap integrity” and was “gimmicky” in last week’s win over Fresno State. Also, that OSU’s defense has been a mixed bag. The consensus: expect a pile of points in this game.
• The over/under point total on the USC-Oregon State game is 70.5.
• I have photographers assigned to both the Oregon-Washington State game in Pullman and the OSU-USC game in Corvallis. We’ll create photo galleries on Saturday. Here’s a link to the Oregon and Oregon State photo galleries from last week. They’re a real treat.
• In the coming weeks, I have plans to travel to some Pac-12 campuses that are outside the state of Oregon and tell some stories from other campuses. I warned you — I will go where the stories take me. It’s going to be fun. I’m glad you’re here for it.
• I watched Thursday Night Football without any problems on Amazon Prime. You? Most of the noise I saw on social media during the Steelers-Browns game came from people who were experimenting with how long it took to flip from the NFL game over to another sporting event and, then, back to the NFL game.
It seems to be on the minds of consumers.
One viewer who was testing this took 31 seconds to flip back and forth between the Amazon broadcast and a MLB offering. That’s way too long. I think college football fans like to flip around and I wonder if the cumbersome process of switching from the streaming experience to linear television and back affects consumer behavior.
• Jon Wilner and I recorded a new “Canzano & Wilner” podcast episode with our weekly picks. I also published my Week 4 picks along with the kickoff times and television networks.
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I am glad you are going to be traveling to other campuses to follow stories beyond the Northwest. I am a Cal alum and season ticket holder as well as a paid subscriber to your newsletter. I think you will find a larger readership if you develop a wider focus. Your excellent coverage of the media rights story is a good example of that wider focus.
Scholar athlete = “kind of taking random classes to stay eligible” and “yoga was the kind of class I was looking for” nothing against the kid who graduated in three years (took me five+ to do my undergrad), but the NCAA is such a sham!