Ime Udoka Coaching Drama Takes Spotlight off Nets Star’s Controversy

Steve Nash, left, and Kyrie Irving

Getty Steve Nash, left, and Kyrie Irving

Minutes after reports emerged that Ime Udoka is all but certain to replace Steve Nash as coach of the Nets, the NBA executive was back on the line.

Through a bit of a chuckle, one could almost hear his head shaking from hundreds of miles away. The conversation with him on Monday had focused on Brooklyn’s point guard and how the club needed badly to figure out an end game in the wake of his continued string of distractions.

“Well,” the source told Heavy Sports on Tuesday, “I guess this takes the heat off Kyrie … for now. The crowd will move to see what’s happening on another stage for a while.”

Indeed, the same questions that still surround the circumstances of Udoka’s suspension by the Celtics will now be investigated by another team’s media. While Irving’s social media posts, and his subsequent confrontational defense of those posts, have attracted perhaps more attention than the Nets’ slow start, the Udoka mystery, so personal and gossipy in nature, will step into the forefront. The coach who led the Celts to the NBA Finals just months prior was suspended for violations of team policy related to a consensual but improper relationship with a member of the team staff.

Mystery Looms Over Udoka Suspension

While sifting through a number of rumors, most all of which have led to dead ends, the question of what specifically could have been so serious to warrant the penalty has yet to be fully answered.

“I don’t like to get involved in things like this, and I really won’t,” said an NBA source. “But the way I have to look at it is that it was bad enough for him to be suspended and bad enough for him to accept the suspension — and the bottom line is he brought it on himself.”

Said another, “I hope this somehow works out, but it’s going to be rough for a while — and that’s before you even get to the basketball side of things with that team. There’s going to be a lot to answer for on a hiring like this.

“Boston’s out from under it. They won’t have that cloud hanging over them — although it could come back if they start losing and people wonder why (Udoka) is gone. Like, if what he did was so bad, why did another team hire him a little over a month later?

“But he was never going to coach the Celtics again, and everybody knew it. C’mon. You weren’t going to bring him back. You were never going to bring him back. I thought it was a mistake to suspend him. If they had enough to suspend him, they should have just fired him and gotten it over with.”

No-Lose Situation in Brooklyn?

Udoka now steps into an almost no-lose situation with Brooklyn — even if the club loses.

“Things look so bad there, no one’s going to blame a new coach if it doesn’t get fixed,” said the original source quoted here. “We’ll see what Ime can do, but that just isn’t working on any level right now. They’ve still got a ways to go to get where they need to be on a basketball level, but you have to wonder whether they’ll ever have the chance to see that through. Kyrie just always seems to find a way to take the air out of the balloon.

“The basketball part is tough enough. When you add the Kyrie drama — and there always seems to be one with him — how do you ever get to the point where you can just focus on the game? It’s got to be exhausting for those guys to always have to answer for what Kyrie’s said or done. I know it wasn’t easy for them to deal with all the stuff about his vaccination stance last year, and this thing, wow, that’s a whole different level that you didn’t need to bring into this.

“I don’t know what Kyrie is really thinking. I’m not sure anyone does. But you would have to think on some level he understands that if he puts this stuff out there on social media that it’s going to be talked about. It’s going to be an issue. Or maybe he doesn’t realize it, which might be even worse, because then you have no hope that he’ll ever keep stuff to himself that’s going to have an adverse effect on the guys that are trying to be his teammates.

“And even if Kyrie just focuses on basketball for a while, it won’t take much to set things off again. Remember, their best player was asking to be traded last summer. You think (Kevin) Durant’s going to be happy if they keep losing? It doesn’t matter who the coach is, KD’s not going to want to waste what time he has left [he’s 34] on a bad team.”


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