Houston Rockets Hire Ime Udoka As Their Next Head Coach

Brian Barefield | 4/26/2023, 4:19 p.m.
The Houston Rockets have hired former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka as their next head coach, making him the ...

The Houston Rockets have hired former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka as their next head coach, making him the 15th head coach in franchise history, the team announced on Tuesday.

"We are excited to welcome Ime to the Houston Rockets," said Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone. "Ime’s intelligence, drive, and toughness were the traits we were looking for in a coach to lead our team through this next stage of our development as we strive to become a champion."

"We were honored to have the opportunity to speak to multiple outstanding candidates throughout the interview process and felt that Ime’s vision best aligned with the goals the Fertitta family and myself have for the future of the Rockets."

Udoka spent one season with the Celtics, leading them to the NBA Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors 4-2 in the series. It was an awe-inspiring run for Boston, as they bounced back from a 36-36 record the previous season to 51 wins the next.

Houston did not extend the contract of former head coach Stephen Silas at the end of the season after he was only able to compile 59 wins in three seasons. He had coached the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Luka Doncic as a long-time NBA assistant coach and was looking forward to the opportunity to draw up plays for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

All that changed when the Rockets traded Westbrook before the season and lost Harden in the same fashion two weeks into the season. That led to three consecutive losing seasons and ultimately cost Silas his job.

Houston interviewed a plethora of candidates before deciding to give Udoka a second chance at being a head coach. Boston suspended Udoka after the team became aware of his involvement in an improper relationship with a staff member of the organization. He would later be dismissed by the team and replaced by assistant coach Joe Mazzulla.

"I texted him to say congratulations," said Mazulla before the Celtics were set to take on the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference playoffs. "And I told him I was grateful for the time that I had to learn from him as a coach."

Before becoming head coach of the Celtics, Udoka was an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio staff from 2012-13 through 2018-19, Brett Brown’s Philadelphia staff in 2019-20, and Steve Nash’s Brooklyn staff in 2020-21.

Those teams made the playoffs in each of Udoka’s nine seasons as an assistant, with the Spurs winning the title in 2013-14. Udoka was also a member of Popovich’s staff for USA Basketball during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

As a player, Udoka spent parts of seven seasons in the NBA from 2003-04 through 2010–11, appearing in 316 games with 80 starts. After going undrafted in 2000, he had brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York but spent most of his time in the NBA Development League and playing overseas.

Udoka’s first full NBA season was as a 29-year-old for Portland in 2006-07, and the following season, he helped the Spurs reach the Western Conference Finals. Besides Popovich, Udoka played for Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, Nate McMillan, and Paul Westphal.