Jun 13, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka reacts from the sideline during the first half in game five of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
In the months that followed his suspension and eventual dismissal as Boston Celtics head coach, Ime Udoka underwent leadership and sensitivity training, and as a result he believes he’s grown as a person.
“You can grow from adversity, and I think I’ve done that this year, if you spend it in the right direction, or take the right steps,” Udoka said Wednesday during his introductory press conference after being named Rockets head coach.
Udoka was arguably the top coach available on the market, but he was available for a reason. According to ESPN, an independent law firm found that he used crude language with a female subordinate before starting an inappropriate relationship with her. Udoka declined to get into details but did say he learned from his mistakes.
“I spent this last offseason working on myself in a lot of different ways,” he said. “Improving in areas, chance to sit back, reflect, and grow, and I think that’ll make me a better coach and overall, a better leader.”
Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said the team did its due diligence on Udoka as it would for anyone, and they became comfortable with hiring Udoka after the process concluded, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league gave the Rockets their blessing.
“The NBA told me that they felt very comfortable with Ime becoming the coach of the Houston Rockets,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said. “So that made me feel really good after a lengthy, lengthy conversation with him.”
Fertitta said he discussed Udoka’s situation with his wife Paige as well as team president Gretchen Sheirr. Both said they were comfortable with him joining the organization, and Fertitta said anyone unwilling to give Udoka a second chance is “a bad Christian.”
“We’re a forgiving society, and everybody makes mistakes. Some things maybe we shouldn’t forgive people for, but I think what happened in his personal situation is definitely something we forgive for.
“We’re a forgiving world, and anybody that isn’t forgiving then shame on them.”
Udoka, 45, led the Celtics to an NBA Finals appearance in his only season as their head coach. He also served as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets. His ability to connect with players allowed him to maneuver to a 33-10 finish last season after an 18-21 start.
“My style, personally, is very upfront, honest, and blunt to an extent. I think the players respect that honesty straightforwardness. I’m a very relatable guy to the players, and that’s what I try to build those relationships. They know I’m gonna coach them hard and coach them the right way, and I think a lot of these guys respect that.”
Udoka will demand accountability from a roster filled with players that have yet to celebrate their 23rd birthday. On Wednesday, he held himself accountable for the transgression that allowed the Rockets to hire him, so when asked if the Celtics were justified in firing him, Udoka didn’t make any excuses or pass blame to anyone other than himself.
“They had had a choice to make, a decision, and they went that route. My thing was own up to it, take responsibility, and I served the suspension and had to own it, honestly. Same thing I’ll preach to the guys. I can’t sit here and not take accountability myself, so it was their right to go about it however they wanted to, and that’s a choice they took.”