Celtics coaching search: Is Ime Udoka the players' choice?


The Boston Celtics' head coach search is focused on two candidates, according to Stadium's Jeff Goodman. And one of those candidates appears to have the support of Celtics players.

Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka have "really emerged" as the top two candidates to replace Brad Stevens as Celtics head coach, Goodman reported Monday night on NBC Sports Boston, as seen in the video above.

Goodman notes Billups is being strongly considered for the Portland Trail Blazers job and is also in the mix for the New Orleans Pelicans vacancy. Udoka, meanwhile, has experience with three core C's players, as he was an assistant for Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

"The other name that's hot right now is Ime Udoka," Goodman said. "He's been in San Antonio. He's a guy who coached Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart in 2019 at the world championships. Those guys have kind of, not gone to bat for him but spoken highly of Udoka. He's interviewed multiple times with the Celtics."

Boston reportedly is looking for a young head coach who is Black, has NBA playing experience and relates well to players. The 43-year-old Udoka, who carved out a seven-year NBA career after going undrafted and playing overseas, checks all of those boxes. 

"I talked to someone who's been with him for an extended period of time, and they described him as a guy with an edge," Goodman continued. "Not a hardass, but a guy with an edge: defensive-minded, tough, adaptable, young, can really connect with the players.

"Obviously it's not a big name, but I don't think Brad Stevens feels like he has to get a big name."

Udoka has been an assistant on three successful NBA staffs -- the Spurs (2012-19), the Philadelphia 76ers (2019-20) and the Nets (2020-21) -- and won a championship with San Antonio in 2014. While there are other reported candidates in the pool, he seems like a strong choice to lead a Celtics turnaround after Stevens' eight-year coaching tenure ended with a frustrating 2020-21 season.

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