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Boston Celtics To Hire Ime Udoka As Next Head Coach

James Murphy
by in NBA on
  • The Boston Celtics are finalizing a deal to hire Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka as their next head coach.
  • Udoka has previously served as an assistant coach with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
  • There are now five remaining NBA head coaching vacancies following Boston’s hiring of Udoka and Indiana’s hiring of Rick Carlisle.

In the past 24 hours we’ve gone from 7 NBA head coaching vacancies down to 5. The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers (Rick Carlisle) have found their next head coaches and the Dallas Mavericks might not be far behind. The teams that still have openings for a head coach are Dallas (for now at least), Washington, New Orleans, Orlando and Portland.

The Boston Celtics didn’t make history with their new hire but they are bringing in a highly touted assistant for his first NBA head coaching opportunity. Boston is reportedly in the process of finalizing a deal with Brooklyn Nets’ assistant Ime Udoka to fill their head coaching vacancy caused by Brad Stevens’ move to take over as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations following Danny Ainge’s retirement.

Udoka is 43 years old and a native of Portland, Oregon where he attended Jefferson High School. Udoka’s father is of Akwa Ibom decent and was born in Nigeria while his mother was a native of Illinois. This qualified him for Nigerian citizenship and he played for the Nigerian national team. Udoka played college ball at the University of San Francisco followed by a stint at Portland State University.

Undrafted out of college, Udoka continued to pursue a professional hoops career with dogged tenacity. Though he was never more than a journeyman NBA player it wasn’t from lack of effort. He would eventually play for twelve different teams in the US, Spain, France and Argentina. At the NBA level, he had a short stint with the Los Angeles Lakers (2004) before returning with the New York Knicks (2006), Portland Trail Blazers (2006-2007), San Antonio Spurs (2007-2009), Sacramento Kings (2009-2010) and a second run with San Antonio (2010-2011).

Udoka apparently made an impression on San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich since he joined the Spurs’ coaching staff as an assistant in 2012 and remained there through the end of the 2018-2019 season. Udoka played an instrumental role in luring LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio–the two played together in Portland. By the time he was hired by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019 he was already being mentioned as a candidate for head coaching vacancies. He joined the Brooklyn Nets in October 2020 where his stock continued to rise leading to his hire by the Celtics. Several current Celtics’ players had played for Udoka on Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup–Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart reportedly gave strong recommendations to Boston management.

Early in the hiring cycle, there was much speculation that Boston could hire the first female head coach in NBA history. Kara Lawson was even the betting favorite at a number of sportsbooks offering futures markets on the Celtics’ next head coach. Chauncey Billups, Becky Hammon, and Sam Cassell along with Lawson appear to have been the ‘top tier’ of candidates. Most reports suggest that it was a case that Udoka was extremely impressive and quickly established himself as the top choice of both players and management. One rap against Lawson was her lack of coaching experience–she’s coached one year as an assistant and one year as the head coach at Duke which played a truncated schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Udoka was one of three candidates in the betting market priced at +750–Sam Cassell and Lloyd Pierce were the others. Curiously, Udoka hasn’t been mentioned as being on the radar of the Portland Trail Blazers as a head coaching candidate despite his long connection to the area.


Kara Lawson                            +300
Scott Morrison                         +400
Jay Larranaga                          +450
Jason Kidd                             +550
Chauncy Billups                        +600
Ime Udoka                              +750
Lloyd Pierce                           +750
Sam Cassell                            +750
Jerome Allen                           +1250
Becky Hammon                           +1400


The hiring of Udoka also led to a classic miscue by an ‘ESPN analyst’ on Twitter. Jay Williams posted and quickly deleted a Tweet suggesting that Udoka was ‘the first head coach of color’ for the Celtics. Anyone with a modicum of NBA history knowledge knows that isn’t even close to being true. In fact, the Celtics were the *first* team to hire a black head coach (Bill Russell in 1966). Russell was followed by five more black head coaches: K.C. Jones, Tom Sanders, M.L. Carr and Doc Rivers and now Udoka.

Instead of copping to the mistake Williams went with the ‘I was hacked’ defense that has become the dubious mea culpa of countless others who have made boneheaded Tweets before him. This will probably put whatever controversy the original Tweet may have caused to rest–not that anyone is really buying the story about him being ‘hacked’. Here’s some perspective on that from Yahoo Sports:

There’s obviously no way to confirm whether or not Williams is lying for what would be an embarrassing mistake, but let’s just maintain some perspective here.

We’ve all seen what Twitter hacks look like, and they usually contain some combination of foul language, random product pushing, questionable direct messages and absolute gibberish. In this case, we’re talking about a tweet that went to great lengths to not just push forward a clearly wrong bit of analysis, but even managed to mimic Williams’ Twitter cadence (the man is a fan of ellipses and emojis).

If we’re looking at the work of a hacker, we are not looking at the work of a normal hacker. It would have to be a person committed to degrading Williams and/or ESPN in every phase of the operation and having the talent and subtlety to do it. After all, what’s a more nefarious hacker than the one people won’t even believe intervened in the first place?

This funny Tweet is typical of the response from the zeitgeist:

No one–least of all me–thinks that Williams should get in any kind of actual trouble for what looks more like a case of ‘brain lock’ than the work of a hacker. He’s got to do better than claiming he was ‘hacked’. It was already a joke as the ‘lamest excuse’ for a bad, incorrect or offensive Tweet back in 2011:

Incredibly, I’ve managed never to send anything across the internet that’s suddenly caused me to squeal in regret, break out in a sweat and rack my brains for an excuse.

I’ve never copied someone in on an email detailing the reasons why said person is an blithering idiot. Nor have I sent people pictures of myself in a gimp suit, not least because I’ve never worn one (he said hastily). But had I done either of these things, I may have resorted to that increasingly common excuse: “I’ve been hacked.”

It’s become as overused as “the dog ate my homework”, or “darling, I’ve never met this woman before”, or “we inherited this mess from New Labour” – and it’s about as believable.

Wired Magazine has a brief history of ‘I was hacked’ excuses dating back to 2005. Unfortunately, the sort of cluelessness displayed by Williams is more of the ‘rule rather than the exception’ for much of mainstream sports media:

It’s tweets like this where you can understand why some Celtics fans push back on what they see as excessive criticism of Boston as a racist city. As if Boston is not just the worst place for racism in the country, but the only place. When you have an NBA analyst for ESPN making such an absurd claim – that Udoka is the Celtics’ first person of color to be head coach, when he’s actually the sixth – “bad look” doesn’t even begin to describe the take and the fact that Williams represents the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

This sequence of tweets ought to be hung in the Louvre. Preserved in the National Registry. It’s truly a historic moment. Because thousands of people responded to Williams’ tweets, and it’s virtually impossible to find one that didn’t clown on him for his clown take. He’s continued to tweet about other NBA stuff, and the replies are still trolling him. Well-deserved. He would have been better off not even acknowledging the original tweet.

No doubt Williams has learned from this experience. My gripe is that you can’t call yourself the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when your on-air talent doesn’t have a good grasp of the sports they’re covering or at least the ability to do a quick Google search to confirm the validity of their ‘take’.

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