Ime Sunday Udoka was hired as the Boston Celtics head coach on June 28, 2021 and led the team to the NBA Finals in his first season with the Celtics. The 2022 NBA Finals was the first time that the Celtics reached the Finals since 2010.
The Celtics suspended Udoka on Sept. 22, 2022, for violations of team policies. Assistant Joe Mazzulla took over as Boston's interim head coach and held that title until Feb. 16, 2023, when the Celtics named Mazzulla their full-time head coach. That announcement ended Udoka's tenure with the team.
Get to know more about Udoka, the 18th head coach in Celtics history:
Ime Udoka's bio
- Birthdate: August 9, 1977
- Birthplace: Portland, Oregon
- College: College of Eastern Utah (1995-97), University of San Francisco (1997-98), Portland State (1999-2000)
- NBA Experience: 17 years (seven as a player; 11 as a coach)
Ime Udoka's career NBA stats
Here are some of Ime Udoka's most notable career achievements and statistics:
- NBA Champion (with San Antonio Spurs in 2014)
- NBA Western Conference Champion (with Spurs in 2013)
- NBA Eastern Conference Champion (with Celtics in 2022)
- Two-time NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month (February 2022, March/April 2022)
- All-G League First Team (2005-06)
- All-G League Second Team (2003-04)
- Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award (2006)
- FIBA Africa Championship Bronze Medal (Team Nigeria 2005, 2011)
- Career averages (as NBA player):
- 5.2 points per game
- 2.9 rebounds per game
- 1.0 assists per game
- 70.5% free throw percentage
- 41.7% field goal percentage
- 35.6% 3-point field goal percentage
- 489-265 (.649) record as an assistant coach
- 51-31 (.622) regular season record as head coach (through 2021-22 season)
- 14-10 (.583) postseason record as head coach (through 2021-22 season)
Ime Udoka's playing career
Ime Udoka went undrafted in the 2000 NBA Draft. After playing on a variety of different minor league teams, Udoka was called up to play with the Los Angeles Lakers in January 2004, but returned to the G League's Charleston Lowgators after four games. Udoka then played basketball in France and Spain. Upon moving back to the United States, Udoka was selected third overall by the Fort Worth Flyers in the 2005 G League Draft.
On April 6, 2006, Udoka was signed by the New York Knicks before getting waived in September 2006. He played eight games with the Knicks.
Udoka was invited to the Portland Tail Blazers training camp leading up to the 2006-07 season and made the team. He started in 75 games with the Trail Blazers that season, playing an average 28.6 minutes per game and averaging 8.4 points and 3.7 rebounds.
He then signed with the San Antonio Spurs, where he played from 2007-09. He began a free agent in 2009 and re-signed with the Trail Blazers, but was waived in October. On November 4, 2009, he was signed by the Sacramento Kings. He played 69 games with the Kings, averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Udoka returned to the Spurs in November 2010, but was waived in January 2011 after playing only 20 games. Later, Udoka signed with the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) in December 2011, but was waived less than ten days later. He finished his playing career with UCAM Murcia in Spain.
Ime Udoka's assistant coaching career
Udoka began his coaching career as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich in 2012. During his time with the Spurs, the team won the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat in 2014. The Spurs competed in the NBA Playoffs for all seven years that Udoka coached the team.
He remained with the Spurs until joining the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2019-20 season under head coach Brett Brown. Brown was on the Spurs coaching staff with Udoka during the 2012-2013 season.
Udoka served as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets for the 2020-21 season, helping the team hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 48-24 record.
On June 28, 2021, the Boston Celtics hired Udoka as head coach. Per Celtics policy, the terms of Udoka's coaching contract were not disclosed.
Ime Udoka's suspension
On Sept. 22, 2022, the Celtics suspended Udoka for violations of team policies, announcing that a decision about his future would be made at a later date. Udoka issued an apology in a statement to ESPN's Malika Andrews:
"I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down. I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team's decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment."
In February, the Celtics removed Mazzulla's interim tag and made him Udoka's official replacement.
Meet Ime Udoka's family
Ime Udoka is the son of Agnes and Vitalis Udoka. Vitalis Udoka is from Nigeria. He came to the United States to attend Portland State. Agnes was an American from Illinois. Both of Udoka's parents have passed away.
Ime Udoka is the youngest of three children. He has an older brother, James, and an older sister, Mfon. Mfon played in WNBA with the Detroit Shock in 1998, the Houston Comets in 2003, and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2004. She also played basketball abroad in Israel, Turkey and Spain. She represented Nigeria in the 2004 Summer Olympics and the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Udoka got engaged to Nia Long in 2015 after meeting the actress in 2010. Udoka and Long welcomed a son, Kez Sunday Udoka, in 2011.