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SI:AM | What We Know—and Don’t—About Ime Udoka’s Suspension

Plus, Julio Rodríguez and the quest to break the Mariners’ postseason curse.

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I will readily admit that I watched three of Aaron Judge’s at bats last night on my phone in a movie theater. (Don’t Worry Darling wasn’t great.)

In today’s SI:AM:

☘️ The Celtics officially suspend Ime Udoka

🧭 The rookie sparking the Mariners’ renaissance

The catch of the year in the NFL

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Celtics suspend Ime Udoka

Less than a month before the start of the regular season, the Celtics are without their coach.

The team announced last night that Ime Udoka has been suspended for the entire season for “violations of team policies.” According to multiple reports, Udoka had an “improper” relationship with a female Celtics employee. Here is everything we know thus far about the situation.

The relationship

When the story first broke, both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the relationship was consensual. But more recent reporting from Charania indicates that the situation isn’t so clear cut. Here is what Charania wrote in an article published late last night:

​​Some members of the Celtics organization first became aware of the relationship in July, sources said. At that time, team leadership was led to believe by both parties that the relationship was consensual. But sources said that the woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her — leading the team to launch a set of internal interviews.

Udoka’s future

SI’s Chris Mannix reported earlier yesterday that Udoka had considered resigning, but TNT’s Chris Haynes reported later that Udoka will not step down, after all. Still, Mannix reports that the Celtics are not guaranteeing Udoka will have a job after the suspension is up.

Who’s going to coach the Celtics?

Boston assistant Joe Mazzulla has been named the interim head coach, the team announced. Mazzulla, 34, was an assistant with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ G-League affiliate, during the 2016–17 season and then spent two years as the head coach at Division-II Fairmont State in West Virginia before joining the Celtics as an assistant in ’19. Though inexperienced, Mazzulla is well-liked by Celtics players.

But is a 34-year-old with just two years of head-coaching experience at the D-II level and three seasons as an NBA assistant really prepared to take over an NBA team? Mannix tweeted that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Celtics reached out to an experienced head coach like Frank Vogel.

The best of Sports Illustrated

Julio Rodríguez Daily Cover

The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs in 20 years, but they’re poised to do so this year thanks to 21-year-old phenom Julio Rodríguez, Greg Bishop writes in today’s Daily Cover:

This is Julio Rodríguez, human helium; electric, soulful rookie; and would-be franchise savior. He’s so young that teammates referred to him as Simba in spring training. He’s so talented that All-Stars wax poetic about his tools—all five, all sharpened—plus a ceiling that’s higher than the Space Needle.

His life also spans the Mariners’ postseason drought, revealing a potentially transformative juxtaposition. His 21 years is infancy for a professional baseball star. Seattle’s 20 years of postseason absences is nearly half of its 46 seasons. Counting this one, drought and star are the same age.

Robert Sarver is selling the Suns and Mercury, but that isn’t justice, Howard Beck writes. … As TCU and SMU prepare to face off Saturday, Ross Dellenger writes that Sonny Dykes’s decision to ditch the Mustangs for Fort Worth has ignited a serious rivalry. … Here are our experts’ picks for the biggest college football games on the Week 4 slate.

Around the sports world

You have to see how close Aaron Judge came to hitting a walk-off for his 61st homer of the season. … A former Mississippi official pleaded guilty to charges related to his role in the welfare fraud scheme that Brett Favre is also implicated in. … Fifteen players have asked to resign from Spain’s women’s national soccer team, citing the coach’s negative impact on their mental health. … Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff wrote a letter to the University of California Board of Regents urging it not to allow UCLA’s move to the Big Ten.

The top five...

… things I saw yesterday:

5. Former teammate Sage Rosenfels’s tweet about Brett Favre.

4. Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera’s goal from 70 yards out.

3. Aaron Judge’s flawless throw to nail Tommy Pham at second and rob him of a lead-off double in the ninth inning of a tie game.

2. The Cardinals prospect who did a home run trot after a flyout to left field.

1. Steelers rookie George Pickens’s acrobatic catch.


The so-called “Knickerbocker Rules”—believed to be the basis for the modern rules of baseball—were adopted on this day in 1845. What was the first rule?

  • There shall be four bases (including home)
  • The inning shall be over when each team makes three outs
  • The players must show up on time
  • The players must all be men

Yesterday’s SIQ: The Browns beat the Steelers last night to improve to 3–3 in that rivalry during this decade. What was the last decade in which Cleveland had the better record in the series?

  • 1990s
  • 1980s
  • 1970s
  • 1960s

Answer: The 1980s. After Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” teams won 15 of the 20 meetings in the ’70s, the Browns enjoyed their most recent run of consistent success in the ’80s. Cleveland made the playoffs seven times in the decade and won 12 of 20 meetings with the Steelers. Their 51–0 win over Pittsburgh in Week 1 of the ’89 season remains the most lopsided result in the history of the rivalry and the Steelers’ biggest defeat ever.

It’s been all downhill from there for the Browns, who went 5–10 against the Steelers in the 1990s, 3–18 in the 2000s and 3-16-1 in the ’10s. The Steelers were so consistent under Ben Roethlisberger for much of the past two decades but with things more uncertain in Pittsburgh now, the door might be open for the Browns to turn things around.

From the Vault: Sept. 21, 2009

Mariano Rivera on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2013

Before I get into Tom Verducci’s story about Mariano Rivera, let me take a moment to marvel at the incredible career of Walter Iooss Jr., the photographer who shot Rivera’s portrait on the cover. The photo on the cover of the Sept. 22, 2008, issue of SI that I featured in yesterday’s From the Vault was also shot by Iooss. In 1962. He was 18. (If you want to read more about Iooss, SI ran a great first-person piece about him in 2011.)

Rivera was the Iooss Jr. of relief pitchers. He was featured on the cover of SI four times during his 19-year career, including on the eve of the 2009 postseason with another cover story by Verducci.

His 2013 cover came as his legendary career was coming to an end, and Verducci’s story illustrates perfectly why Rivera was such an icon, not just with stats and skills but also with his leadership and generosity.

Verducci let Rivera’s colleagues do the talking, quoting extensively from fellow stars like Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Roy Halladay, as well as more anonymous people like the Yankees’ bullpen coach, media relations director and a former Royal clubhouse attendant who Rivera comforted after a family tragedy.

The only disappointing thing about Rivera’s career is that, as a guy who was best known for big October moments, the Yankees couldn’t make the playoffs in his final season.

Check out more of SI’s archives and historic images at

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