Celtics’ Ime Udoka Sends a Strong Message to His Star Players

Getty Images Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka

Ime Udoka pulled no punches during his introductory press conference as the Boston Celtics’ new head coach, Monday morning.

In fact, Udoka vows to be particularly hard on Boston’s core stars, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

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And according to Ime, that is the precise approach the Celtics’ star trio is asking for. It’s also just one of the many reasons why the hiring process Ime went through with Boston excited the Celtics’ new head coach.

Ime Udoka’s Message to Celtics’ Core: ‘They Know I’m Going to be On Their Ass’

Another reason? His recent conversations with the president of basketball operations Brad Stevens.

“It’s an honor to be part of this historic franchise,” Udoka said. “In our conversations and the Zoom interviews, it was pretty evident and clear, early on that me and Brad had a pretty good connection. Then, when I got with the whole crew, Alison (Feaster), as well, it was their passion that was attractive to me. Obviously, the roster’s great. But, the relationships I have with those players, it’s easy to see why this organization has been so successful.”

As an assistant coach for 2019’s Team USA in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Udoka spent extended time with Tatum, Brown, and Smart — which he believes led to a brief, but, unique bond.

“It was just a natural connection with those guys that I had,” Udoka said of his time working with Tatum, Brown, and Walker. “They’re going to allow me to coach them; push them. They know I’m going to be on their ass, and that’s what they like about me; they’ve asked me about that. They want to be pushed, they want to be directed toward winning, and you expect that from your stars; the character that they’ve shown.”

Udoka On Tatum, Brown & Smart: ‘They All Have Different Personality Traits’

Udoka plans to push the trio to become better players in a way that will elevate their team to new heights.

“They all have different personality traits,” Udoka added. “Marcus is one way. Jaylen is one way, and Jayson is his own but the bottom line is that they want to win and help us get 18.”

Ime Udoka Sees ‘MVP-Caliber Players’ in Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Jayson Brown

Udoka’s taken notice of Tatum and Brown’s ascension. From afar, Ime was thoroughly impressed with the duo’s previous two seasons.

“It’s huge and it’s something that you see — the perception of them outside of this organization is All NBA-level players, MVP-caliber players,” Udoka said. “Getting to know them over the last few years, you see their growth. They took huge leaps this past year, and we look forward to them continuing in that progress. It’s my job to put them in situations to be successful. Push them to be greater and like I said, the sky’s the limit for those guys.”

For Ime, it made accepting the Celtics gig a no-brainer.

“When all the job openings happened this summer I think it was pretty evident that Boston is the one most attractive based on the organization, the history, the expectations, but also the players and the roster,” Udoka said. “When you have two foundational young pillars like those two, it’s exciting to build around them, continue to help them grow, and reach their potential. So, the sky’s the limit for those two.

“We’re excited to work with them and continue to see them grow throughout their career.”