BOSTON (CBS) — Following a disappointing 2021 season, the Celtics went through a pretty big shakeup this offseason. Brad Stevens moved to the front office to replace Danny Ainge, and hired long-time assistant coach Ime Udoka to take over for him on the bench.
The hiring of Udoka has revamped the excitement surrounding the team, and that is not just among the fans. Udoka, a former player and a branch from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, has Celtics players eager to see what they can do with a fresh voice coming from the bench.READ MORE: Celtics Pick 18-Year-Old French Pro Juhann Begarin In Second Round Of NBA Draft
That obviously includes Jayson Tatum, who is back to working with Udoka with the U.S. Men’s National Team as they prep for the Tokyo Olympics. Tatum — along with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart — also worked with Udoka at the 2019 World Cup, and enjoyed their time together two years ago. This time around, Tatum is putting in some work with his future head coach in Boston, and everything about Udoka has the 23-year-old Celtics star excited about the future.
“I think what stands out the most is, I guess when you’re coming up as an assistant, when you get your first head coach job you’re driven and motivated. From the conversations I’ve had with him since he’s got the job, I can just tell he’s really, really excited,” Tatum said after Wednesday’s Team USA practice in Las Vegas. “It’s going to be fun and we’re going to try to accomplish something big.”
Udoka’s hiring and Stevens’ move to the front office wasn’t the only big change to the Celtics this summer. In his first move as president of basketball ops., Stevens traded away point guard Kemba Walker and brought back veteran big man Al Horford. The shuffle at the top and a blockbuster deal was a lot to take in for Tatum, but he’s confident these changesREAD MORE: Jayson Tatum Leaps To Simone Biles' Defense: 'Simone Is A Hero!'
Tatum said he is eager to start working with Udoka, but on Wednesday he also acknowledged the flurry of change within the organization over the past month. Danny Ainge retired after serving as the team’s president of basketball operations for 18 years and was replaced by Stevens. And soon after taking on this new role, Stevens orchestrated a blockbuster trade in which former All-Star Kemba Walker was traded to the Thunder in exchange for former Boston big man Al Horford.
It was a lot to take in for Tatum, but he’s confident that good things are ahead for the Boston Celtics.
“Change is good sometimes,” he said. “I’m excited about our new coach. Obviously Kemba — that’s my man. You hate to see one of your close guys go, but I wish nothing but the best for him wherever he goes.
“I’m happy to have Al back,” he added. “He looked better in green anyway.”MORE NEWS: Evan Fournier Leads France Over Jayson Tatum And Team USA In Olympic Opener