One of the key pieces to the Boston Celtics' NBA Finals run has been new head coach Ime Udoka. The former player has proven the perfect successor to Brad Stevens, helping the team's star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make their first-ever NBA Finals appearance this year.
If Udoka leads Boston to its 18th championship, his rookie season as a head coach will be one of the most impressive ever.
Celtics Head Coach
The Celtics are coached by Ime Udoka, who took over from Brad Stevens after the latter was elevated to a front office role. Udoka was officially hired on June 28, 2021 following an extensive search.
He quickly rose up the coaching ranks after retiring from basketball, joining Gregg Popovich as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. Udoka spent seven seasons as an assistant in San Antonio, including a Finals win in 2014, before spending one year with the Philadelphia 76ers and another year with the Brooklyn Nets.
Ime Udoka NBA Career
Udoka had eventful playing career before getting into coaching. The Portland, Oregon native had a standout 1999-2000 season for Portland State where he averaged 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds over 24 games.
He then was drafted into the D League in 2002, and he eventually earned a call-up by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2003-04 season, appearing in four contests. Udoka went off to play in France for the 2004-05 campaign before heading back to the D-League and playing in eight games for the New York Knicks in 2005-06.
Udoka's most significant playing run came with his hometown Portland Trail Blazers in 2006-07. The big man played well enough in the preseason to earn a spot on the team, and he went on to start 75 games for Portland, averaging 8.4 PPG and 3.7 RPG.
Udoka then played for the Spurs in three of his final four NBA seasons, averaging 4.5 PPG and 2.3 RPG across 160 appearances. He played in Spain during the 2011-12 campaign before officially retiring and transitioning into coaching.
Over his career, Udoka averaged 5.2 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 316 games.
Ime Udoka Coaching Career
Udoka showed enough potential during his time in San Antonio that Popovich brought him back as an assistant coach at the start of the 2012-13 season. The defensive instincts that were apparent during his playing days helped him make an immediate impact as a coach. He won a ring with the Spurs in 2014, and his presence on the staff played a key role in landing LaMarcus Aldridge in the 2015 offseason.
Udoka then joined Brett Brown, who was also a former Spurs assistant, in Philadelphia for the 2019-20 season. He moved on to Brooklyn for the 2020-21 campaign prior to becoming Boston's head coach.
The Celtics went 51-31 during the regular season under Udoka, earning them the No. 2 seed in the NBA Playoffs. They've survived two seven-game series, and swept the Nets, to make the Finals. Boston is currently two games away from winning the championship in Udoka's first year.
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