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Report: Celtics to hire Ime Udoka as head coach

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Udoka will be a first-time head coach as he replaces Brad Stevens on the sidelines for Boston

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics will hire Ime Udoka as their new head coach:

Udoka was most recently an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets, under Steve Nash.

Per Wojnarowski, and several other reports, Udoka made a favorable impression on several Celtics when he was part of Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff for Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Current Celtics Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum were a part of that team.

Udoka’s coaching career started as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, following the end of his playing career in 2012. Udoka spent seven seasons with the Spurs, including winning a championship in 2014. Udoka then took a job with former Spurs assistant Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2019-20 season. Following Brown’s dismissal, Udoka was quickly hired by the Nets to assist first-time head coach Steve Nash.

Like Nash, Udoka had a long playing career. He played for parts of seven seasons in the NBA. He also played several years in the NBA Development League, and for clubs in France and Spain, as well as other minor leagues.

In addition to his professional playing experience, Udoka played for the Nigerian national team at the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

Udoka will be 44 years old at the start of the 2021-22 season. The Celtics were reportedly targeting a young coach to connect with their players, as well as a head coach of color. In Udoka, Boston has hired a highly-respected basketball lifer who was on several team’s short lists for their openings.

During his playing career, Udoka was a defense-first player, and that reputation has followed him into coaching. He’s become one of the more highly-thought-of defensive minds in the game. He’s been given credit for helping the Spurs and Sixers both build high-performing defensive teams.

With the Udoka hire, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens has checked off two major items atop his offseason to-do list. Last week, Stevens traded Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford. That move created some much needed flexibility for Boston on the cap sheet.

Now, Stevens has landed the coach that will replace him on the sidelines. With this hire behind him, Stevens can now focus on putting together Udoka’s roster for the 2021-22 season.

Udoka will become the 18th head coach in Celtics franchise history. There’s something poetic about that designation as Boston tries to win their 18th NBA title.

Stay tuned to CelticsBlog for further coverage of Boston’s offseason, including more about the Celtics new head coach!