Ime Udoka Sounds off on 3 Teams That Turned Him Down Before Celtics

Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics.

Getty Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics.

In just his first season as a head coach in the NBA, Ime Udoka helped lead the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals. He became just the fifth rookie head coach since the turn of the century to lead their team to the Finals in their first year, joining David Blatt (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2015), Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors, 2015), Ty Lue (Cavaliers 2016), and Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors, 2019).

Before joining the Celtics, Udoka spent most of his time as an assistant under Gregg Popovich on the San Antonio Spurs. After seven seasons there from 2012-2019, Udoka spent one year with the Philadelphia 76ers and another with the Brooklyn Nets. But all throughout his journey, Udoka was determined to become a head coach.

His path to the lead role wasn’t easy, either. Despite being a highly-touted candidate for years, Udoka was turned down a multitude of times. However, during an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, he revealed that he was the second choice for three jobs in recent years.

“You really want me to tell you? Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland,” Udoka told Haynes. “I can go down the list. That was tough because I believe I was ready.”

The Detroit Pistons hired Dwayne Casey as their new head coach in 2018, the Indiana Pacers hired new head coaches in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, and the Cleveland Cavaliers hired John Beilein in 2020. Based on his statement, Udoka was a top candidate for years.

However, while Udoka admitted that rejection stung at the time, he also said that he’s extremely grateful to be in Boston.

Udoka ‘Wouldn’t Trade’ Celtics Position for Anything

After years of being rejected, Celtics GM Brad Stevens hired Udoka to be the heir to his coaching throne. In turn, Udoka was faced with the task of coaching a team with lofty expectations, but that was a challenge he relished.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships,” Udoka explained to Haynes. “You can be in a lot of different situations. There are only 30 teams and I get that, but to not be in a rebuild and being in an expectation pressure-filled situation, I wouldn’t trade that in any day.”

Heading into the year, the Celtics were coming off of a disappointing season that saw them finish with a .500 record and get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Udoka had a tall task in front of him, but he took it by the horns.

In addition to discussing his coaching journey, Udoka gave Haynes some insight into Boston’s upcoming series against the Warriors.

Udoka Says Celtics ‘Defense Travels Well’

The Celtics are underdogs in the NBA Finals against the Warriors, but that doesn’t phase Udoka. He said that he likes the way that Boston has played Golden State, and is confident in their defense moving forward.

“We’ve been who we’ve been all year and our defense travels well and carried us through the playoffs,” Udoka told Haynes. “We’ve played Golden State well this year. We blasted them at their place, had a tough loss at our place early in the season. And so it’s a new series. We know who we are and the things we do well, so we’re confident in that.”

Udoka’s unwavering confidence has been a backbone of his coaching philosophy, and now, he’ll get the chance to coach in his first NBA Finals.

Game 1 of the Finals is set for Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

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Mista Bigmike
Mista Bigmike
2 months ago

When they said put your money where your mouth is .. he did exactly that .. good job coach way to go

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