Celtics’ Marcus Smart surprised, confused about Ime Udoka’s latest standoff with the Nets

Cleveland — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has expressed confusion over reports that suspended coach Aim Odoka is heading to the Brooklyn Nets. Until reports surfaced on Tuesday, Smart believed Odoka would return to the Boston bench next year.

“From what we know and we were told, it was just a comment. We didn’t know he was going to leave to train someone else,” Smart said. For this reason it is baffling. We haven’t been told much about it.”

The Brooklyn Nets are close to striking a deal to hire Udoka to replace Steve Nash, the athlete mentioned. Nash was fired this week after Brooklyn’s 2-5 start (now 2-6). Jack Vaughn will temporarily coach the Nets, and general manager Sean Marks has said he has “never” named a replacement yet.

Odoka was previously an assistant coach on the Nash crew in Brooklyn.

Six weeks ago, Udoka was suspended by Boston for the 2022-23 season for multiple violations of team policies regarding an intimate relationship with an employee of the organization. Joe Mazzola has been promoted to replace Odoka for this season, although no permanent decision has been made regarding his future.

If the Nets hires Udoka, he will return to the NBA bench just weeks into the new season.

Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said he played a role in initially bringing Odoka to Boston, and was happy to see him get another chance so quickly.

“It would have been great if we could come up with a way for her to be with us, but I guess that wasn’t the case,” Brown said. “I’m just happy to see a black coach standing on his feet because I’ve seen situations where something like that might not be.”

Odoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his only season as head coach. He and Marks previously worked together as assistant coaches in San Antonio before Marks moved to the front office.

The news of Odoka heading to Brooklyn this week shocked Smart.

“I think it left a lot of people like, ‘What the hell is going on here? Because obviously they suspended him for breaking the team rule. And he’s like, ‘Okay, now it’s clear that it looks like more than a comment. But he still managed to train. So what exactly was the team rule and how big was it that they felt like they needed to suspend him and then all of a sudden They say, ‘I’ve gone’ and let him go as a coach somewhere else?

“I think that’s the confusing part because nobody knows from either side and there isn’t much that people on both sides can say and talk about. It’s just a tough situation for everyone involved.”

Smart said asking Celtics president Brad Stevens, his former coach, questions won’t help because no one can divulge too much information.

“I don’t think you’ll get a direct answer about what’s really going on because there’s so much they can say and know,” Smart said. “You can ask, but I don’t think it’s going to change anything, help anything. I think the question is just to express what you’re feeling, whatever you’re feeling, from your chest. But that’s really it. I don’t think it’s going to change or affect me. No result. They made their decision.”

Stevens attended the Celtics’ penalty shootout on Wednesday before the game against the Cavaliers, but did not address reporters.

“I care about our youth the most,” Mazzola said during a pre-match press conference. “I care about how they process things, I care about what they’re going through. I hope they know we can always talk about anything. I’ve had a lot of conversations with them about multiple things.

“But the most important thing for me is that they feel like they can only be heard and can talk to me. We try to do it on a consistent basis. I hope they feel that way.”

Celtics forward Jason Tatum didn’t want to talk about the reports until Odoka’s appointment was official. But Tatum said he is fully aware that Odoka may leave to coach another team.

Brown will continue to support Odoka no matter where he lands.

“I was hoping he was here because Amy is a good guy,” Brown said. “It’s a shame to see where he is and everyone was worried if he’d be able to get another chance. So, to hear that he might have another chance, it’s a pity that he’s not here, but I’m glad he’s able to land on his own two feet.”


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(Photo by Ime Udoka and Marcus Smart: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)


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