Why the Ime Udoka Scandal Will Lead to a Celtics Championship

(Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics haven’t missed a beat since Ime Udoka was suspended as head coach right before the start of training camp for violating organization policy by having an intimate relationship with a female colleague. They have the best record in the NBA, are number one in aNET rating and have the league’s number-one offense. The Celtics are going back to the NBA Finals, and this time they’ll win it.

The Celtics were up 2-1 in the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and had their opportunity to go up 3-1. When a team gets to the Finals and is close to a title and they fail to win, one of two things happens. They experience a hangover and never quite find their footing or they come back the next year like a team on fire determined to get back.

The Celtics have chosen the latter, a quarter of the way through the season. They’ve heard all the talk about how Udoka was the key to their success. You see the players want their say.

Jayson Tatum is an MVP candidate and one of the five best players on Earth. FACT. Jaylen Brown is playing All-NBA level basketball. FACT. Two alpha wings that play both ends of the floor are hard to stop.

Add in Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Al Horford and Malcolm Brogdon and you see why the Celtics are as good as advertised. They have the bitter taste from the disappointing Finals loss, the motivation to prove that Udoka wasn’t the sole reason for their success, and a new coach in Joe Mazzulla who is challenging them to be the best versions of themselves.

Excellence isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an everyday process that builds and becomes habitual. There’s a reason the best players in the league earn All-NBA honors seemingly year after year. They take nothing for granted and come back better.

At the beginning of the season Mazzulla showed the Celtics an image of a sandcastle and said to the team, if they were given $1 million to make a sandcastle each day, what kind would they build?

“How are you going to build your sandcastle?” Smart said. “Because all you have to do is make a sandcastle. You can make a rinky-dink sandcastle knowing it’s just going to get washed away. You could come in every day and put no effort into your sandcastle. Or you could come in every day and put that effort into your sandcastle even though you know it’s going to get washed away and you’re going to have to make it all over again.”

A bit cheesy to be sure by Mazzulla. But it is resonating with the team. Every day they’re building a new castle. Putting in the work. They know nothing in this league is guaranteed. They thought they’d be back with Udoka with another run at the title, then a day before camp he’s suspended for the year.

They could sulk and complain or they could get to work on the business at hand and start building.