Shortly after San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich offered support for former Celtics coach Ime Udoka prior to a Sunday night game in Boston, NBA sources were telling Heavy Sports that a Udoka return to the bench may be drawing closer.
Amid reports that Nick Nurse and Toronto may be looking to separate following this season, one league executive stated that Udoka, suspended for the season by the Celtics for “violations of team policies,” would be of interest to the Raptors.
There is word the Rockets would have interest in Nurse if he is available and they choose to part ways with Stephen Silas. In the latter case, Houston would also look into Udoka.
Popovich coached Udoka for three seasons in San Antonio and had him on his staff as an assistant for seven years.
“Ime was and is and always will be a great friend, and so you can imagine that I was deeply disappointed and hurt for him, for everybody involved,” he said Sunday, referencing the matter in which Udoka was alleged to have had an improper relationship with a subordinate. “It’s a difficult situation for him, and my hope is that he will bounce back and find a home.”
Popovich Hall of Fame Bound
Speaking of homes, it’s likely Popovich will soon find one in the Basketball Hall of Fame. After refusing nomination previously, he accepted consideration this year and is expected to get the nod when the next announcement is made. He took 1,363 regular season wins, most in the NBA all-time, into the meeting with the Celtics.
Asked why he chose to be in the running now, Popovich grinned and said, “Jerry (Colangelo, chairman of the Hall) threatened me. Jerry’s a pretty intimidating dude. … I guess maybe get it over with, I don’t know.
“In all honesty, I always felt the Hall of Fame is like for Red Holzman and Red Auerbach and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and you put people’s names in like mine and it’s like the SAT test: which doesn’t fit? That sort of thing.
“So I’ve never felt like I belonged, to be honest with you. I’m not trying to be Mr. Humble or anything. I’m a Division 3 guy; I’m not a Hall of Fame guy. So it just never really registered, and it always was embarrassing to think about, to tell you the truth. So I’m the product of serendipity more than anything. How much credit should I get for serendipity putting me here? So we’ll see what happens.”
Popovich Hails Former Spur Derrick White
The notion of downplaying oneself sort of gives Popovich a bit in common with Derrick White, who has worked into a critical role with the Celtics after being traded to Boston from the Spurs in February of 2022.
“Derrick’s a really special case of someone over time figuring out that he belongs, basically,” Popovich said. “He started out in a small college situation (Division 2 University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) and matriculated to a Division 1 school (Colorado). We got him, and in development he was just outstanding. He spent a lot of time before and after practice and summer leagues and learning how to play.
“The immediate thing you could see was that he had an instinctive nose for the game. He understood how to play. Most NBA players don’t know how to play. He did.
“And he added skill development on top of that. He’s been working a lot on his shot, ballhandling, pick and roll, those sorts of things. And he just got better and better because he put so much time in. Then it was just a matter of convincing him that he did belong so that his confidence would grow. And you’ve seen that continue over his time here in Boston.”