20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Implications From the Boston Celtics Suspending Coach Ime Udoka for 2022-23 Season

Boston Celtics Coach Ime Udoka has been the subject of a lot of media coverage in the past few days, and none of that coverage pertained to him leading the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season as a rookie coach. I do not find any value in non-emergency "breaking news"--and the Udoka story is a perfect example why I think this way: every verifiable fact about this story that is publicly available was presented during the Boston Celtics' press conference today. Any other information that is out there and that has been floating out there for days is either unconfirmed rumor or confirmed falsehood. What value was provided by someone who fancies himself to be a reporter tweeting out information that was leaked to him shortly before it became public knowledge? In fact, the premature leaking of the information fueled irresponsible speculation that has damaged people who are innocent bystanders, and made them "guilty" in the "court" of social media. Shame on the people who leak information that should not be leaked, and shame on the people who get paid millions of dollars to broadcast that information in exchange for access; if you called this process prostituting oneself to gain access and power you would not be far off. 

Breaking news is valuable if it includes information that impacts public safety and/or if it includes information about critical matters that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. I don't need to know who is going to be drafted #1 five minutes before it is announced (or even a day before it is announced), and I don't need to know rumors about what is happening within the Boston Celtics organization two days before the team holds a press conference during which the team reveals the information that it can legally reveal.

I do not traffic in speculation and gossip, so rather than repeating anonymously sourced material spewed out by various high profile "insiders," I will just quote from the Boston Celtics' official press release:

"The Boston Celtics announced today that the team has suspended Head Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for violations of team policies. A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date. The suspension takes effect immediately."

A statement attributed to Udoka has been released on a reporter's Twitter account, but Udoka has not spoken publicly or directly commented, so until he speaks publicly or comments directly I will refrain from quoting him.

At the Boston Celtics' press conference today, Celtics' majority owner Wyc Grousbeck would not elaborate on why specifically Udoka was suspended or what would have to happen for Udoka to resume coaching the Celtics after the suspension ends on June 30, 2023. Grousbeck added that Udoka faces "a significant financial penalty" for "multiple violations" of Celtics policies. Celtics' President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens announced that assistant coach Joe Mazzulla will be Boston's head coach for the upcoming season. These decisions were made after the Celtics hired a law firm to conduct an investigation that took several months and concluded two days ago.

Much has been said and will be said about this situation, including irresponsible idiots on social media speculating about who else may have been involved while dragging people's names through the mud without evidence or justification. 

I will stick with the proven, publicly known facts, and make the following comments/observations about the implications of this situation:

1) After the NBA suspended Robert Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million, many media members, NBA players, and others made it clear that they did not consider this punishment to be sufficient, and some of the critics endorsed a "zero tolerance" policy for misconduct. Keep in mind that "zero tolerance" means no exceptions based on who the perpetrator is (owner, executive, coach, player, etc.), the context of the situation, or the perpetrator's race, gender, age, religious beliefs, political affiliation, etc. "Zero tolerance" means that there is no tolerance for anyone who breaks a rule. I am not saying if "zero tolerance" is right or wrong, but I am saying that if you publicly ask for "zero tolerance" then you are in no position to say that person X deserves special consideration for any reason. 

2) Before comparing the discipline imposed here with the discipline imposed (or not imposed) in other situations, remember that this situation involves a team disciplining one of its employees; there are different rules/standards for internal discipline within a team versus broader discipline from the NBA. Although it may seem paradoxical, an individual team probably has greater power to punish an employee than the league has to discipline an owner, executive, or player. The NBA is constrained by its agreements with the Players Association and the agreements that stipulate the rights of each NBA owner. A team can fire a coach at any time for just about any reason (or no reason), so a team clearly has the power to suspend a coach before deciding whether or not to fire him.

3) The Celtics have not explicitly stated which rule(s) Udoka violated, but anyone who has ever worked for a corporation knows that corporations have employee handbooks which stipulate impermissible conduct and state clearly that violating those rules can result to punishment "up to and including termination." In other words, we do not know which rule(s) Udoka violated, but we can be confident that he knew the rule(s), he knows that he broke the rule(s), and that is why he is not contesting his punishment.

4) In the context of discussing this situation, some people argue that anything that happens between consenting adults is no one else's business. There are several flaws in that thought process. One flaw is that a person in a subordinate position within an organization cannot freely grant consent because failing to grant consent could impact that person's employment; when one person has power over another person, the less powerful person is not in position to freely grant consent. Another flaw is that the behavior of two consenting adults could potentially have a disruptive and corrosive effect within an organization if this results in one person being favored for promotion over another person, or if the activities of the consenting adults impact other adults who are involved (such as spouses) who may not have consented to the behavior. Workplace rules exist for a reason. People who choose to not follow workplace rules should not be surprised and have no reason for outrage if their rule breaking results in them losing their jobs. 

5) People who recklessly assert that race played a role in any situation without having credible proof are pushing forward an agenda that is not about helping oppressed people but solely about elevating their voice and their profile. Such people should not be taken seriously, because they are not serious thinkers. The Celtics hired Udoka and the team was very successful during Udoka's first season. Why would the Celtics suddenly become racist and decide to get rid of Udoka without cause? That just makes no sense.

6) I dislike any "What about?" arguments when such arguments are used to deflect attention from a legitimate issue or story. When the coach of the Boston Celtics violates team policies and is suspended for a full season, that is a legitimate news story. It can simultaneously be true that the Udoka story deserves attention and that the Brett Favre welfare scandal deserves more coverage than it has received. Any headline or article that asserts the premise that we are being told too much about Udoka and not enough about Favre misses the point and is driven by a warped agenda; I agree that the Favre story should receive more coverage, but that has nothing to do with the seriousness and newsworthiness of the Udoka story.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 8:27 PM



Post a Comment

<< Home