It didn’t take the Boston Celtics long to fill its head coaching vacancy, after Danny Ainge’s departure from the front office, and Brad Stevens’ surprising move to the general manager role. Stevens tabbed Ime Udoka, a popular Brooklyn Nets assistant, to replace him.
Udoka is taking on his first head coaching job, and it’s one with significant expectations. The Celtics struggled this year, but should still be well set for success going forward. In Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they have one of the most talented forward combinations in the NBA.
Udoka played in the NBA from 2003-11, for the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and on two occasions, the San Antonio Spurs. He finished his career in 2010-11 under Gregg Popovich, and joined Pop’s staff a year later.
He left San Antonio in 2019 for a spot on the Philadelphia 76ers staff, and this year, joined first-year coach Steve Nash in Brooklyn. He still has the utmost respect of Gregg Popovich, who “couldn’t be more thrilled” for his former player and assistant.
Gregg Popovich on Ime Udoka's hire by the Celtics: "I couldn’t be more thrilled. The guy is a stalwart."
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) July 6, 2021
Ime Udoka’s ability to connect with star players has been cited as a major strength, and in the NBA that counts for a lot. He helped draw Lamarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, and joined a star-studded Brooklyn team that was looking to break in, and manage the personalities of, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this year.
Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart reportedly enjoyed their time working with Udoka when he was a Team USA assistant over the last few years. That familiarity should help the roster hit the ground running this offseason.
The Boston Celtics finished 36-36 in the regular season this year. They fell to Udoka’s Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs in five games.