By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If anything was apparent after the great disaster of 2021, it was that the Celtics needed a fresh young voice to lead the way from the bench. They have found that fresh young voice in Ime Udoka.READ MORE: Jayson Tatum Leaps To Simone Biles' Defense: 'Simone Is A Hero!'
Brad Stevens continued his busy first month as Celtics president of basketball ops., reportedly deciding on Udoka as his replacement on the Boston bench. Stevens did a fairly solid job in his seven seasons as head coach of the Celtics, but even he admitted that he was no longer the best man for the job after a disappointing 2021 season. Whether he’s the best man for his new job remains to be seen, but he’s done pretty well since taking over just hours after Boston was dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by the Nets.
Stevens went and plucked one of the bright young minds off Steve Nash’s staff, stealing from the team that just sent the Celtics packing. Udoka, who was a role player for seven seasons in the NBA, has been a hot name for head coaching vacancies the last few years. Most of that is thanks in large part to his seven years under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, but he’s seen as a bright defensive mind that can connect with today’s players.
Sounds like the perfect guy to turn things around in Boston. The Celtics’ defense was abhorrent for most of last season, and Udoka should turn that around. Most importantly, he has experience with the C’s young core after coaching Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart on the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup. Boston’s players reportedly liked his style during that brief tenure as one of their coaches, which played a big part in Udoka landing the Celtics gig, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Per league source, the Tatum/Brown/Smart axis was consulted. "(The Celtics) wouldn't do anything unless key players were on board with it."READ MORE: Evan Fournier Leads France Over Jayson Tatum And Team USA In Olympic Opener
— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) June 23, 2021
And that should have played a big part, since most of the frustration last season was based on players not wanting to listen to Stevens anymore. Making Tatum and Brown happy — and giving them a coach they and others will listen to — is all that really matters for the franchise for the foreseeable future. But Udoka will not be a pushover, and he has his playing career and a 2014 championship when he was on Pop’s staff to point to, something that will resonate with players. The 43-year-old checks all the boxes that Stevens wanted his successor to fill.
There is still a lot of work to be done before the Celtics can consider themselves, as Stevens said earlier this week, “in the mix.” There is plenty to be sorted with the roster, and a large gap between Boston and the top teams in the East — let alone the rest of the NBA. And there is certainly no guarantee that Udoka will bring instant success to Boston. It would be downright silly to expect him to be the next Popovich, just because he comes from Poppo’s coaching tree.MORE NEWS: Bill Russell To Auction Most Of His Prized Celtics, NBA Memorabilia
But for a team that had a massive dark cloud surrounding them just a few weeks ago, the hiring of Udoka could — and should — get the Celtics back on the path to a bright future.