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The last locker room pep talk

From one coach, a look at what Ime Udoka’s potential words were after a tough Finals defeat.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The silence is deafening. Tears, exasperation, exhaustion, pain. The locker room is filled with disappointment after a loss like this.

As the head coach walks into the locker room one last time, the onus is on him to give one final speech while the group is together. Those words are poignant. They need to be direct and honest but, for the first time, shifted towards the future and not as much about the present or the past. They can’t be too long to prolong the pain of the moment, nor too short to dismiss the devastation that everyone in that room is feeling.

Ime Udoka clears his throat as he enters to address this group for one last time.

Heads are up, guys.

It hurts. There are no words to sugarcoat this one. We came up short. This feeling stings. And it should.

Anytime we come this close, we pour so much physically and emotionally into the pursuit of a goal, it’s going to hurt when we fail to meet it. Remember this disappointment.

But what makes this moment sting a little less, well, are three things.

First, that’s a really damn good team. There is no shame in losing to a team with that many Hall of Famers, that much experience, that level of coaching, and those many hungry players.

Second, is how much we battled and fought and scratched and clawed throughout not just these playoffs, but the entire season. The loss stings a little less knowing how much we overcame.

Close your eyes for a moment. Think back to where we were in January. Frustrated, at each other’s throats, ready to come apart. We were faced with a choice as a group, and as individuals. Rally around each other and buy-in, or let the season truly come apart.

Open them now. And look at each person in this locker room. To overcome those odds, to become the team we believed we could be and mentally give all that we gave to get there — that speaks to the character of this group.

This isn’t about me, but as a first-year head coach, you’ve all made it incredibly easy to coach you, to trust in you, to let you all make this your team. Thank you.

That’s what brings us to that third reason why this feeling of disappointment won’t last: the future.

Take a moment over the next 72 hours and think about that one play, that one regret, that one ‘what if’ that you have from Bostonb Finals. Think about how to fix it — not just to diagnose it, but to fix it. The hours in the gym, the film to watch, the grind that goes into being ready for these challenges in the future.

This is a special group. I’m hopeful everyone in here can be back with us next year for another shot at this thing. Don’t forget this moment, the pain and the disappointment. Use it this summer and learn from it.

But be grateful for each other and the fight. Be hopeful for the opportunity to be back. Be hungry to never feel this defeat again.

I appreciate each and every one of you.

Let’s bring it in.

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