The Boston Celtics have their guy and his name is Ime Udoka, who’s spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers (2019-20) and Brooklyn Nets (2020-21), after spending the first eight years of his coaching career in San Antonio under five-time NBA Champion Gregg Popovich.
The Boston Celtics are finalizing an agreement to hire Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka as the franchise's new coach, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2021
The NBA now has 9 Black coaches in a predominantly Black league of 30 teams. There are five coaching vacancies right now (New Orleans, Dallas, Indiana, Portland, Washington) and all of them have potential.
None of those jobs, however, hold the prestige or historical significance of the Boston Celtics job. Many don’t know, this but during his time in the Alamo, Udoka was very instrumental in the development of Kawhi Leonard into arguably the league’s best two-way player.
Udoka will be taking over for Brad Stevens who went upstairs to become the GM following the retirement of Celtics lifer Danny Ainge, earlier this month.
Udoka mentioned he was big on relationships and he has one with the team’s three best players (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart) from their time together during the 2019 Team USA World Cup team.
According to league sources, the trio were fans of working with “Dok” during the tournament in China and gave him their stamp of approval during the team’s hiring process.
Ime, took a long road to the NBA but carved out a nice career for himself beginning in 2006, after starring in college at Portland State as a transfer.
He went undrafted in 2000 but played overseas and in the G-League, getting brief opportunities with the Lakers (2004) and Knicks (2006), before making the Portland Trailblazers roster as a camp invitee in 2006.
He earned a starting job as a tenacious wing who’s now known as a “Three and D” guy in today’s NBA. He signed a long-term deal with the Spurs in 2007. He then played four more seasons in the NBA, finishing his career and playing a total of 316 games before retiring in 2012.
In 2012, he joined the coaching staff of the San Antonio Spurs under the tutelage of the great Gregg Popovich aka “Coach Pop.”
He learned the nuances of the profession in seven very successful years in the Alamo, which included an NBA title in 2014. He’s credited with playing a vital role in the elite two-way play of one Kawhi Leonard (2X NBA Finals MVP and 3X NBA DPOY) who happens to be a Top 5 player in the the league today.
He joins other coaches around the league like Mike Budenholzer (Bucks), Monty Williams (Suns), Quin Snyder (Jazz), James Borrego (Hornets), and Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies) who’ve all spent time in the Spurs system under “Pop.”
He brings championship pedigree to “Beantown,” having been a part of the 2013-14 Spurs redemption story, following their heartbreaking Game 6 and 7 losses the year prior to the Miami Heat. That Spurs team ran it back and put together a dominant postseason to capture it’s fifth NBA title during the Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich era.
Dok’s father was born in Nigeria so he was able to play for the country during international competition. He helped lead the team to a bronze medal during the 2005 FIBA World Championship against some of the world’s best players. Nigeria made it out of the group but did not medal in that competition.
He’s one of the many players and coaches of African descent in the NBA from Joel Embiid to Giannis Antetokounmpo to Clint Capela, just to name a few.
Udoka’s “passion for the game” and his compassion for the players” was a huge attraction for the Celtics and that resonates throughout the league during the hiring process.
Ime Udoka is winning in every way on and off the court. Off it, he’s also engaged to the talented and beautiful actress Nia Long.