Celtics Rumors: Nets' Ime Udoka 'Believed to Be at the Top' of Boston's List for HC

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 22, 2021

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10) confers with assistant coach Ime Udoka in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Ime Udoka is "believed to be at the top" of the Boston Celtics' list of candidates for their head-coaching vacancy, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein.

Udoka spent seven seasons in the NBA as a player. He subsequently moved into coaching, working as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers before moving on to Brooklyn.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported June 18 the Celtics were staging a second round of interviews with Udoka, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups.

"Udoka has received strong reviews from Celtics players who played for the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, sources said," per Wojnarowski.

With the Nets out of the playoffs after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Bucks, the 43-year-old has more flexibility to pursue outside opportunities right now, which can't be said of Ham and Billups.

Boston had success in hiring Brad Stevens, who hadn't worked in the NBA in any capacity before taking over in 2013. Even with the franchise in a much different place compared to then, experience as an NBA head coach doesn't appear to be a prerequisite for Boston.

Were he to take the job, Udoka would be inheriting a somewhat difficult situation despite the presence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics' first-round exit showed how the roster simply wasn't good enough to be a championship contender. Tatum and Brown represent a good start toward getting there, but they can't do it on their own.

While swapping Kemba Walker for Al Horford should make Boston a little better, it won't be to the level required to catch up with the best in the Eastern Conference.

Granted, the hiring of Udoka would likely signal that Stevens—now Boston's general manager—and the team's governors are thinking longer term beyond just maximizing Tatum and Brown right now.