By Shams Charania, Kelly Iko and Jared Weiss
Houston Rockets are hiring former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka for the same role, league sources say Athleticism Monday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Udoka, 45, replaces Stephen Silas, who was fired earlier in April after going 59-177 during his three-year tenure.
- Boston suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-23 season for violating team policies and eventually hired interim coach Joe Mazzulla as his permanent replacement.
- The Rockets were expected to have a roster of approximately eight head coaching candidates, Athleticism Previously reported. In addition to Udoka, the list was to include formerraptors coach Nick Nurse – who was fired last week – Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, former Lakers trainer Frank Vogel, former Hornets coach James Borrego and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin.
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Why this makes sense for Houston
At the end of the day, Udoka ticked all the boxes the Rockets were looking for in their next leader. Someone who has the ability to relate to young players and veterans, but also demands respect both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Udoka is a defensive-minded individual whose creativity, aggression and execution propelled the Celtics to the NBA Finals.
Expect the same level of intensity with this young and relatively inexperienced roster. Players like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun need organization and real leadership. The Rockets are in a pivotal time and Udoka looks like the best candidate to pull Houston out of a rebuild and back to winning ways in the near future. – It is
What the Rockets get in Udoka
Hiring Udoka makes sense on the court and in the locker room. He revolutionized Celtics basketball culture by empowering everyone and proved to be an effective coach throughout a Finals. Everything about this rental from a locker room perspective looks great, but it comes at a cultural price beyond those limits.
Udoka lost his job in Boston over an improper working relationship that neither he nor the Celtics transparently addressed. The Celtics said he committed multiple workplace violations and then declined to answer any questions to provide more information during his first suspension. When he was finally fired, they simply cited a “violation of team policies”.
While there have been some reported details about a relationship with a subordinate, there are still a lot of unknowns in this story and it will be difficult for the Rockets to justify her hiring to their employees and fans without a clear explanation. Saying they did their due diligence and then trying to sweep it all under the rug won’t be enough, especially since this team likely won’t let victory distract from the problem without a drastic roster overhaul.
This comes particularly against the backdrop of the fallout from Udoka’s initial suspension, when female staff members of the organization were harassed online as internet trolls recklessly attempted to piece together the story.
There were real consequences for Udoka’s actions that reverberated far beyond his realm within the organization. Although many of his former players have continued to champion him as a great manager and a person they love, this scandal has put an indelible stain on his career. The Rockets are giving him a chance at redemption after spending the past seven months in complete radio silence. Now he has to face the music. — Weiss
Is former Celtics coach Ime Udoka the answer for the Rockets?
Silas was hired as a coach shortly before the Rockets traded Russell Westbrook ahead of the 2020 season. Weeks later, star James Harden was also traded, transforming the Rockets from a contending team to a team in reconstruction.
The Rockets haven’t seen the playoffs since the 2019-20 season, when the team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Before his suspension, Udoka was entering his second season at the helm after taking over in June 2021 from Brad Stevens, who became president of basketball operations. The Celtics went 51-31 in the regular season last year and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors. Udoka was previously an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets originally planned to hire Udoka as a coach after his suspension was announced, Athleticism reported in November, but instead promoted longtime assistant and interim coach Jacque Vaughn.
(Photo: Kyle Terada/USA Today)