Ex-Celtics Coach Ime Udoka Being Vetted for Return to NBA Bench: Sources

Current Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla (left) and former coach Ime Udoka

Getty Current Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla (left) and former coach Ime Udoka

Now that the Celtics have moved forward with their coaching situation, removing the “interim” tag from Joe Mazzulla, there appears to be some benefit for Ime Udoka, as well.

With more clarity from the fact Udoka is officially out of the club’s plans rather than being on suspension, some NBA teams are now getting into the vetting process on the chance they might have an opening. People from three organizations have called here to discuss Udoka, with one looking for his phone number “in case we decide to do something. We just want to be ready.”

Udoka, who led the Celtics to a 51-31 record and the 2022 NBA Finals in his first year as a head coach, was suspended just before the start of this season for violations of team policy regarding an improper relationship with a female subordinate.

Udoka Advised to Make Public Apology

The Nets had serious interest in hiring Udoka after letting Steve Nash go in early November, but with the club already mired then in the Kyrie Irving anti-Semitism issue, it chose to back away from the controversy that had already begun when their interest was reported.

Being able to deal with the public response is going to be a requirement for Udoka, according to league sources. The fact there are still details unknown is also problematic.

Said one executive, “A team is going to have to find out all that went on here, and what they find out can’t be something that makes this a non-starter. What we know is it was bad enough that Boston suspended him and that he accepted it.

“Look, we can see the guy knows how to coach, but this is about more than just basketball. Teams are businesses, and you have to pay attention to how your customers are going to react. This is a very public business. At some point if Ime gets hired, he’s going to have to sit down in front of the cameras at a press conference.”

There have, therefore, been suggestions Udoka should get out in front of the matter.

“Someone close to him told him he should come out and make a public apology about it and give a little bit of his story and, you know, ask for forgiveness, just apologize to people,” a source told Heavy Sports. “I know he got that advice recently, so he might be interested in doing so. They told him that was his best option before he could move forward or before anybody would even think about reaching out to him. So he might be in the mindset now that that’s something he wants to do.”

Udoka will still have to answer the questions from potential suitors. And, in any case, it will not be an easy path.

Udoka Hiring ‘Would Be Hard’

In a story published here on January 14, a general manager told Heavy Sports that hiring Udoka to an assistant coaching position could be difficult, as well.

“I think even that would be hard with the environment we’re living in today,” the GM said. “There’s still a lot of question about all that went on with him, but even just the fact that he didn’t fight the suspension says something. From a team standpoint, it’s hard to bring him in right now. You’ve got women on your staff that could have a problem with it, and there’s the public… Just the social media climate would bring a lot of criticism. Not to make any judgment with (Udoka) and what he did, but everyone knows how the gotcha reactions go.

“You have to decide how big the benefit would be and whether that outweighs what you know is going to be the fallout. And that’s assuming you know the extent of what happened and that you’re OK with things. But look what happened with Brooklyn when they wanted to hire him. No team wants to have to deal with that kind of thing, so I can easily see them just deciding it’s easier to go in another direction.”

There are still hurdles for Udoka to clear, but six weeks later it seems some clubs are more comfortable looking in his direction.


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