Celtics Name Nigerian 18th Head Coach In Franchise History

The Boston Celtics have named seven-year NBA veteran, Ime Udoka the franchise’s next head coach, making him the 18th head coach in the organisation’s 75-year history, Theundefeated.com reports

“I would like to welcome Ime, Nia, Kez, and Massai to the Boston Celtics. Among the many outstanding qualities that Ime brings to the table are his character, humility, and competitiveness. He has a relentless work ethic and a vast array of experiences as a player and coach,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens.

“He’s a leader that is warm and demanding, and we are so excited that he has chosen to join us in pursuit of Banner 18.”

Udoka joins the Celtics franchise after spending the last nine NBA seasons as an assistant coach between San Antonio (2012-13 to 2018-19), Philadelphia (2019-20), and Brooklyn (2020-21). 

Teams that Udoka has served as an assistant coach on have qualified for the playoffs in all nine seasons, with one of those years resulting in an NBA championship (Spurs, 2014).

In addition to his coaching experience in the NBA, Udoka was also an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich and the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in 2018.

He played for the Nigerian men’s national team during the 2006 FIBA World Championship, where he led the team in scoring, assists and steals, and was second in rebounds. He also played for Nigeria during the 2005 and 2011 FIBA Africa championships. Udoka and his sister, Mfon Udoka, who played for the Nigerian women’s national team and in the WNBA for three seasons, were the first brother-sister pair to play in both the NBA and WNBA, according to a 2006 report in the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s inspiring to see more players, coaches and personnel, born in Africa or with direct ties to the continent, receive opportunities across the league. Just as Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka continue to inspire the next generation of African players, Ime Udoka is a trailblazer for aspiring coaches from Nigeria and across the continent,” said NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams.

Udoka’s basketball career started at Utah State University Eastern, where Udoka recorded the first triple-double in school history. After two seasons, Udoka transferred to the University of San Francisco, spending one season with the Dons before finishing his collegiate career at Portland State.

After not being selected in the 2000 NBA draft, which he has chalked up to a knee injury at the end of his senior season, Udoka spent time in the NBA’s developmental league (now the G League), in France and Spain, and had brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks from 2003 to 2006.

Ahead of the 2006-07 season, Udoka signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he started 75 games. He remained in the league for four additional seasons, with stops with the Sacramento Kings and most notably the Spurs, before retiring from professional basketball in 2012.

That same year, Udoka was hired as an assistant by the last NBA coach he played for: the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

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