When the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Boston Celtics next season, they’ll notice a very familiar face on the C’s bench.
The Celtics hired former Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka on Wednesday to be their new head coach, according to multiple reports.
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Udoka was among many candidates vying for the gig in Boston, but may have taken the lead as frontrunner in mid-June. Other notable names that had been rumored to be in serious contention for the job vacated by now-general manager Brad Stevens were Chauncey Billups, Kara Lawson, Becky Hammon, and Sam Cassell.
Udoka Spent One Season With Sixers Under Brett Brown
After spending parts of seven NBA seasons with five different teams as a player between 2003 and 2011, Udoka joined the coaching staff of future Hall-of-Famer Gregg Popovich in 2012. Udoka was on the bench with Popovich for seven years, before becoming an assistant coach for Brett Brown’s Sixers for the 2019-2020 campaign.
When Brown was fired following the team’s first-round sweep at the hands of the Celtics in last year’s NBA Bubble, Udoka was considered as a possible replacement for the lead gig in Philly. Instead, the Sixers hired former Orlando Magic/Boston Celtics/Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers to lead the way for the 2020-2021 season.
Udoka left the Sixers last off-season and was a member of head coach Steve Nash’s bench with the Brooklyn Nets this past season.
‘Sam I Am’ Was a Candidate for Celtics Job
The field of potential hires for Boston was perhaps deeper than any other of the NBA’s numerous vacancies, and one other candidate with immediate ties to the Sixers was Sam Cassell. The 2004 All-Star and three-time NBA champion played in 993 career games, averaging 15.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game.
Though his most memorable playing days came with the Kevin Garnett-led Minnesota Timberwolves from 2003 to 2005, Cassell also won his third and final NBA title in his last season in the Association with the C’s in 2008 – also with “KG”. It’s little coincidence that Rivers was the Boston head coach at the time as well.
Since retiring after the championship in Beantown, “Sam I Am” has been an assistant coach for 12 years with three different organizations, including the Clippers from 2014 to 2020 and of course with the Sixers this past season. Cassell has 27 combined seasons of playing and coaching and of the last 13, eight have been spent with Rivers, so it doesn’t seem like the duo will be broken up anytime soon.
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