‘It’s been hell for us’: Celtics’ Marcus Smart speaks about the Ime Udoka scandal for the first time

Describing the team’s offseason as ‘hell,’ Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart revealed that he and his teammates have been largely in the dark as the team investigated head coach Ime Udoka over a reported affair with a female team staff member.

‘It’s been hell for us,’ said Smart at Monday’s media day when asked about the fallout from Udoka’s yearlong suspension. ‘Just caught off guard. Nobody knows anything, so we’re just in the wind like everybody else. It’s confusing.’

The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year did not direct any attacks at Udoka, who guided Boston to the NBA Finals in his first year with the team last season. But Smart expressed frustration with the team’s circumstances heading into the new campaign.

A week ago, the Celtics’ biggest concerns were offseason knee surgeries of teammates Danilo Gallinari and Robert ‘Time Lord’ Williams. But beginning with reports of Udoka’s imminent suspension early last week, and The Athletic’s subsequent reporting that the coach made ‘unwanted’ comments to the unidentified woman, Boston’s upcoming season was quickly tainted before it began.

‘I still love Ime as a person and as a coach,’ Smart said.

“I think the hardest thing is that it happened so quickly,” he added. ‘This type of situation takes away, unfortunately, from the players, who have put in the work and are going out there to do their jobs.’

Describing the team’s offseason as ‘hell,’ Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart (right) revealed that he and his teammates have been largely in the dark as the team investigated head coach Ime Udoka (left) over a reported affair with a female team staff member

Udoka's alleged affair has become tabloid fodder, since his longtime fiancé and mother of his son is actress Nia Long, of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame.  Long reportedly moved to Boston in the weeks before the scandal surfaced, only to tell TMZ that she was blindsided by the affair, while asking for privacy at this difficult time.

Udoka’s alleged affair has become tabloid fodder, since his longtime fiancé and mother of his son is actress Nia Long, of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame. Long reportedly moved to Boston in the weeks before the scandal surfaced, only to tell TMZ that she was blindsided by the affair, while asking for privacy at this difficult time.

Udoka’s alleged affair has become tabloid fodder, since his longtime fiancé and mother of his son is actress Nia Long, of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame.

Long reportedly moved to Boston in the weeks before the scandal surfaced, only to tell TMZ that she was blindsided by the affair, while asking for privacy at this difficult time.

The specifics of the allegations surrounding Udoka have not been fully revealed, but ex-NBA forward Matt Barnes promised they're '100 times uglier than any of us thought'

The specifics of the allegations surrounding Udoka have not been fully revealed, but ex-NBA forward Matt Barnes promised they’re ‘100 times uglier than any of us thought’

The specifics of the allegations surrounding Udoka have not been fully revealed, but retired NBA forward Matt Barnes promised they’re ‘100 times uglier than any of us thought.’

Barnes has backed off criticism of the Celtics for suspending Udoka last week, he said, after learning ‘all the facts.’ On Friday, in a self-shot Instagram video, Barnes explained that he deleted a previous post slamming the suspension because he learned more information.

‘Without knowing all the facts, I spoke on Ime Udoka’s defense, and after finding out the facts after I spoke, I erased what I posted because this situation in Boston is deep, it’s messy, it’s 100 times uglier than any of us thought, Barnes said to the camera while driving his car.

And that’s why I erased what I said. Some things happened that I can’t condone, I can’t back, and it’s not my place to tell you what happened. If it ends up coming out, it ends up coming out. But that was the reason why I erased my post last night, because after I posted it, I got a call from someone who had all the details, and s*** is deep.’

On Monday, without acknowledging that he knows any unreported details, Smart expressed his support for the team’s tight-lipped response to the scandal.

‘You want to make sure you have all the facts before you speak about it, but what we do know, it seems like the organization handled it the right way,’ Smart told reporters.

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics takes questions from reporters

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics takes questions from reporters

Smart and All-Star teammate Jayson Tatum were both very complimentary towards Udoka’s replacement, assistant coach Joe Mazzulla, who has the difficult task of coaching the Eastern Conference champions under the ‘interim’ title.

“We love Joe,” Smart said.

‘It’s somebody we’re comfortable with over the past three or four years,’ Tatum agreed. ‘Same person, just in a different position now. But somebody we’re familiar with and have a lot of respect for.’

But while it’s Udoka’s suspension that led to Mazzulla’s promotion, the interim coach had his own questions to answer about his past on Monday. Specifically, the former West Virginia guard was asked about a 2009 arrest for domestic battery at a bar in Morgantown, which resulted in a suspension from head coach Bob Huggins.

Mazzulla was also arrested on another alcohol-related incident while with the Mountaineers, but claims to have grown up since those mistakes in his early 20s.

“I’ve made mistakes,” he said. I’m not perfect. I’ve hurt people and I’ve had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man to learn from and become a better person,’ Mazzulla stated.

The difference now, he explained, is that Mazzulla has a stronger sense of identity, which has helped him as a coach.

“I know who I am,” Mazzulla said. I know why I got into coaching. I know my why. Especially growing up, if you don’t have a compass, it’s very hard to direct yourself. I’ve had to learn that several times. For me, my identity has become my faith and my focus.’

As for the upcoming season, Mazzulla stressed that he can’t ‘rush trust,’ which will take time.

“You can’t rush healing,” he said. You can’t rush any of that. Regardless of what happened, we have a great roster and we have a great opportunity. That’s what I have to focus on.’

Celtics star Jayson Tatum has been supportive of Mazzulla, who now steps into an interim role

Celtics star Jayson Tatum has been supportive of Mazzulla, who now steps into an interim role

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