The Boston Celtics recently released the news that Ime Udoka will be the new head coach for the Celtics after Brad Stevens ‘lost the locker room’ and got promoted to the Celtics President of Basketball Operations. The most important factor for their new coach will be to capitalize on Boston’s talented trio: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.
As it turns out, Udoka is already familiar with both Tatum and Brown according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium.
“Ime Udoka’s experience coaching Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart a couple of years ago in Team USA was significant in his hiring,” Goodman shared on Twitter.
Another source shared with Goodman that “Those guys all liked and respected him.”
The established connection should make it easy for Udoka to step in on day one, and make a difference. This new pairing looks to return Boston to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Goodman also expressed the thoughts of others around the league regarding Udoka on Twitter:
‘Here’s how one coach who has worked with Ime Udoka described him to me: “He listens to players and adjusts. It’s not his way or the highway. He has an edge, but he’s not a hard-ass. He’ll stand up to guys. He’s defensive-minded. He values toughness.”
WHAT DOES UDOKA NEED TO DO?
Defense is a crucial aspect to the success of NBA teams, and the Celtics should pursue this mindset. When Boston has a pair of All-Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as a physical, strong defensive player in Marcus Smart, their core looks reliable. Udoka has the perfect opportunity to have this team back in the conference finals with the players he has at his disposal.
Udoka will need to construct lineups that stress the abilities of Tatum and Brown specifically to help the team excel offensively. Tatum and Brown have accomplished a great deal by the age of 23 and 24, respectively, but Udoka will be in charge of unlocking new levels of their games. Can Udoka help them further weaponize their shooting and versatility, and transform them into more complete players?
Marcus Smart has also been a major role player in the Celtics’ past success but is entering the last season of his contract unless he and the Celtics sign an extension. Tatum and Brown are on longer-term deals and have established themselves as the team’s more consistent players. The return of Al Horford will also allow Udoka to strengthen the inside game, further maximizing the potential of the Celtics’ wing players.
Though Udoka has no experience as a head coach, he has been around many of the game’s superstars, as a player and assistant. As a pro basketball player and assistant coach he has played with and/or coached some of the league’s legends. Udoka served as assistant coach to Greg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs for seven seasons; coaching legends like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. He then left for Philadelphia and spent 2 years alongside Brett Brown. This past season he moved to Brooklyn under Steve Nash and worked with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Udoka has seen what separates the elite players, and those experiences could influence how he coaches the Celtics trio.
His past experience with the trio gives him a head start to next season’s success. The development of Tatum, Brown, and Smart is the deciding factor as to whether the Celtics are real contenders for a championship. It is clear the Celtics management believes that Udoka is the right coach for the job. Now it’s up to him to prove that they are right.