In this photo from March 16, 2022, head coach Ime...

In this photo from March 16, 2022, head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center in San Francisco. On Friday, April 1, 2022, the Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers, 128-123. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) Credit: TNS/Lachlan Cunningham

It was a rare and stunning moment in the world of sports.

Six weeks ago, the Boston Celtics made a hard decision. They had to pick between backing up a team culture that claimed to value the contributions and safety of female employees and keeping a powerful coach who had just thrilled their fan base by taking the team to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics chose women, announcing on Sept. 23, just 10 days before the opening of the preseason, that they were suspending Ime Udoka for the entire season for “violations of team policies.” It has been widely reported, including a report in The Associated Press, that the suspension was for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate in the organization. 

“We go to great lengths . . . to run the organization with the central core value of respect and freedom in the workplace from harassment or any unwelcome attention,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said at a news conference announcing that he and general manager Brad Stevens were suspending Udoka.

Hmm, I wonder what Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks will say if they have a news conference announcing that they have hired Udoka to take over?

Last week, multiple reports said it was just a matter of days before Udoka was hired to replace Steve Nash. Now, there is mounting pressure, both in and outside of the organization, urging Tsai to back off the hiring.

“It’s shocking that the Nets would even consider hiring Udoka,” Bridget Todd, communications director at UltraViolet, a national gender equity organization, said in a statement. “ . . . The Nets represent Brooklyn — one of the most progressive places in the country. To hire someone as head coach who has proven to act irresponsibly in a position of power would contradict many of the standards New Yorkers not only follow, but established as the birthplace of the #MeToo movement.”

In theory, it’s hard to believe that the Nets would seriously consider hiring Udoka.

In reality, their season veered into the surreal a while ago. It took the Nets eight days and two cringe-worthy news conferences to do the right thing and suspend Kyrie Irving for linking to an antisemitic movie on his social media accounts. Is it really possible they feel they can fix one public relations catastrophe with another? Can it be possible that it wasn’t enough to alienate their Jewish fans, and now the Nets are moving on to women?

Not only is it not right, it’s not good business.

The Nets, according to a 2020 study by the marketing research group Morning Consult, have the most diverse fan base of the four major sports and are tied with the Knicks for the second-most liberal fan base in sports, behind only Golden State.  And they play in Brooklyn, where one out of four residents is Jewish, according to a study by the UJA-Federation of New York.

Still, the Nets were painfully slow to discipline Irving after he linked to the documentary “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which among other vile assertions suggests a connection between Judaism and devil worship. Early on in the crisis, the Nets went so far as to attempt to shield their star from his actions, announcing initially that he was not going to be available to talk to the media.

“I think at this point we don’t want to cause more fuss right now,” Marks said last Tuesday.

Well, that ship sailed long ago. Team Fuss is headed right toward iceberg disaster and it’s hard to imagine any coach, not matter how talented, is going to be able to get them to change course.

The Celtics never came right out and said what Udoka did to merit a suspension. The exact nature of his transgressions must have been fairly serious given that he agreed to the suspension and apologized to the fans and team in a statement released on ESPN.  Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report later reported that the Celtics are not even going to ask for compensation from the Nets, even though their coach is still under contract.

The Nets say they are going to do their due diligence before making the hire, and it will be interesting to hear exactly what that due diligence involves. Will Udoka be hired with a list of remediation steps similar to what Irving has now been given so that he can rejoin the team? Or will the Nets look elsewhere?

Udoka is far from the first person in sports to be accused of harassment  and he won’t be the last. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like a punch in the gut to women, especially coming from an organization that lists on its website nine women employed at the vice president level and higher, including Clara Wu Tsai, the wife of Joe Tsai, who is the vice chairman of BSE-Global.

Desperate or not, I expect better from the Nets this time.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months