The Boston Celtics‘ affiliate club in Portland, Maine hasn’t hit the court since March 11, 2020 — the night before COVID-19 shut down the NBA. When the team finally makes its return for the 2021-22 campaign after skipping the G League bubble, it will do so with a new name and a new head coach.
The name we’ve known for some time; gone is the Red Claws moniker in favor of a shared Celtics designation. However, the team didn’t officially lock down a coach until this week.
Per an announcement out of Boston on Thursday, the Maine Celtics have officially hired former Washington Wizards assistant Jarell Christian to be their man on the sidelines.
“I’m just excited to be a part of the Celtics franchise. It’s historic and the legacy, it speaks for itself,” Christian said during his introductory press conference, via Celtics.com. “I’m grateful and I’m humbled that Brad [Stevens] and Ime [Udoka] are trusting me in continuing to lead and build on what previous staffs have already built in Portland, Maine.”
Christian on His Shared Approach With Udoka
Christian’s hiring is the latest domino to fall in what has been a seismic organizational shift, beginning with Brad Stevens replacing Danny Ainge as team president, which subsequently triggered the move to make Ime Udoka Boston’s new head coach.
As Maine’s man-in-charge, Christian says he’ll look to replicate Udoka’s approach with the parent club as he spearheads the Celtics’ G League effort.
“What we’re going to try to mimic in Portland is going to be that of what they’re doing in Boston with Ime and his staff,” Christian said. “A lot of the same things, we want to have better ball movement, we’re going to have a 0.5 mentality, so we’re going to play up-tempo but we’re not going to do it recklessly where we’re turning the ball over.”
He also spoke about turning up the heat defensively, just as he did during his playing days. It’s a mindset that he shares with Udoka, who was also known as a stopper.
“Defensively is where I think you’re really going to see an adjustment. That’s something that Ime has been very vocal about with his staff and myself is becoming one of the premier defenses in the league, and that’s going to trickle down to us,” he said.
“I was a hard-nosed player when I played at Emory and Henry College in Division III, and that’s what I like my teams to be – play hard-nosed, play hard, play aggressive but with intent and purpose.”
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Christian’s Career Path
Christian spent the last two years with the Wizards as a part of Scott Brooks’ staff. Last season, he notably worked closely with star guard Russell Westbrook. Before that, he served as head coach for Washington’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, logging a 25-25 record during the 2018-19 campaign.
Prior to his time with the Wizards organization, the 35-year-old spent four years as an assistant for the Oklahoma City Blue under Mark Daigneault (now-head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder). He also had brief stints as an assistant at Tusculum College, Randolph-Macon and his alma mater, Emory and Henry.