Celtics’ Jayson Tatum: Ime Udoka ‘Probably Most Favorite Coach I’ve Had’

Joe Mazzulla is now officially the head coach of the Celtics after the team removed his interim tag. And the players have all praised the move.Jayson Tatum Ime Udoka

Mazzulla, 34, took over for Ime Udoka, who was suspended by the Celtics after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a female employee. He is no longer with the team, sources told Hoops Wire.

But guard/forward Jayson Tatum was among those who indicated he already misses Udoka, who took the Celtics to the Finals in his first season as an NBA head coach.

It’s been a tough situation for everybody involved. He’s somebody I’ve talked to throughout the season, periodically just reaching out,” Tatum said, via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “Whatever happened, happened and that didn’t have anything to do with me. But that can’t take away the relationship that we have and the impact that he had on me for that one reason.

“I love Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski). I love (Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens). I love Joe. I love all those guys. It was just a different kind of relationship I had with Ime. Probably the most favorite coach I’ve had and that’s not a knock on anybody. I’ve got a great relationship with Joe. I love everything he’s doing. I’m extremely happy for him. Brad helped me navigate the NBA. I was 19. He helped watch me grow and put me in the right spots. So I have a different perspective and respect for each coach that I’ve had at different times of my life.”

Fellow standout wing Jaylen Brown echoed those sentiments.

Since the start of the season it’s kind of been a whirlwind of emotions,” he said, via Washburn. “We’ve been able to reconcile and win games despite that loss of the presence of Ime Udoka. He was great in our locker room. He was a leader in our locker room. He held it down. He brought us together defensively, helped us get over that hump and get to the Finals. I want to see him back on his feet. I said it before and I’ll say it again.

“I don’t feel bad for saying that. I want to see Ime back on his feet. Obviously it won’t be in a Boston uniform. I want to see all partners win. I think the Celtics are doing fine. I would like to see Ime do fine.”

Tatum, Brown and other members of the Celtics had plenty of praise for Mazzulla too, of course. Clearly, he’s appreciative.

“As a coach, if you don’t have the right players and the right people, you’re nothing,” he said, via Washburn. “I’m grateful to have them. I’m grateful that we have a great locker room.”

The Celtics finished 51-31 last season. They’re 42-17 at the All-Star Break and back in first in the East, leading the Bucks by a half-game.

Meanwhile, Udoka is currently out of work, but that is expected to change once the summer rolls around and jobs open, as we relayed here.

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