Who is Ime Udoka? Four things to know about Celtics’ next head coach
The Celtics appear to have found their next head coach.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that Boston is finalizing a deal with Nets assistant coach Ime Udoka to be the team’s new head coach.
The position opened up this offseason when Danny Ainge stepped down from his role as Boston’s GM and former head coach Brad Stevens was moved up into the role of head of basketball operations.
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But how did the Celtics land on Udoka to be the 18th head coach in team history? Here’s all you need to know about how Udoka was picked with a rundown of his basketball career.
Udoka has been in the league as an assistant coach for nearly a decade, with a bulk of that time spent working under his former head coach in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich.
After seven seasons in the NBA and a 2012 stint playing for UCAM Murcia CB in Spain, Udoka returned to the Spurs in 2012 as an assistant coach. He was on staff in 2014 when they beat the Heat to capture the NBA championship.
Udoka joined the staff of the 76ers for the 2019-20 campaign before landing with the Nets at the start of the 2020-21 season.
According to Wojnarowski, Stevens valued the coaching experience that Udoka had as an assistant coach and that he was a candidate very likely to receive a head coaching position this cycle.
While in his playing days, Udoka made a number of stops.
Udoka, a 6-foot-6 forward, played collegiately with San Francisco and Portland State and played a season with Club Sportivo Independiente, an Argentinian basketball team in the Liga Nacional de Basquet. He was eventually drafted 39th overall in the 2002 NBA Developmental League Draft and spent a season with North Charleston and made a brief stint with the Lakers in 2004 when he appeared in four games and averaged two points.
The next two seasons, 2004 and 2005, he spent in Europe, first playing for Gran Canaria in Spain and eventually joining JA Vichy in France. He went through the NBDL Draft again in 2005 and was taken third by the Fort Worth Flyers and reached the NBA again in 2006 with the Knicks, where he averaged 2.8 points. He had his best season in 2006-07 when he started 75 games for the Trail Blazers and averaged 8.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He played the next four campaigns in San Antonio, where he averaged 4.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game in 160 games, only starting in three. He had his final stop in Spain with UCAM Murcia CB in 2012 before wrapping up his playing career.
Udoka’s father was born in Nigeria of Ibibio descent, which meant that Udoka could qualify to play for Nigeria in international competition.
He played for the Nigerian National Team in the 2005 FIBA African Championship, where he helped the team earn the bronze medal. In the final game, Udoka scored 24 points to help Nigeria defeat Algeria 88-76. He continued to play for the team, helping Nigeria get out of the group stage in the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Udoka later guided the Nigerian National Team to another bronze medal in AfroBasket 2011, defeating Ivory Coast 77-67.
Even as a coach, Udoka found himself back competing against international competition. He also was an assistant coach on Popovich’s staff for the 2019 World Cup tournament with a roster that included Celtics Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart.
Udoka has found himself the next Celtics candidate in large part due to the relationship he built up with players.
According to Wojnarowski, several players showed support for Udoka to be hired after working with him on Team USA.
And that isn’t anything new for Udoka. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, he was a key factor in Lamarcus Aldridge landing with the Spurs after the two played together in Porland in Aldridge’s first year in the NBA.
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