The Celtics will look different with Ime Udoka calling the shots on the sideline, at least if the new Boston head coach has his way.
The C’s introduced Udoka as the 18th coach in franchise history Monday morning, giving the basketball journeyman a chance to make his first public impression on the team and the fanbase.
Udoka, faced with the somewhat awkward proposition of publicly critiquing his new boss’ performance, spoke about the style of play he expects from the Celtics under his watch.
“We want to have a well-rounded team. I looked at the numbers overall, but 27th in assists last year, we want to have more team basketball there,” Udoka told reporters, while apologizing to new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, who moved upstairs after eight seasons as C’s coach.
“But at the same time,” Udoka continued, “you have to understand what your personnel dictates, and that’s Jayson (Tatum), Jaylen (Brown) and guys who can score the basketball at elite levels, so you play to their strengths. Obviously, we’ll have a defensive mentality going in and I like to try to bring the dog out in guys, and we’ve got some young dogs here and I look forward to pushing them.”
Udoka himself noted he spent the last two seasons orchestrating the defense for the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, the two teams for which he was an assistant coach. He noted Monday, though, that he had input on both sides of the ball during his seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
The new Celtics head coach sidestepped a question about whether he’d retain any of Stevens’ assistants. In the process, though, he spoke about what he’s looking for from his staff and team.
“The first thing I would say is a hands-on approach with the coaching staff, building the relationships, the relatability and then getting out there and griding with the guys,” Udoka said. “I’m looking for energy, juice in the building, a great environment to produce winning. That’s what I’m looking for in my staff ? a little bit of mix. I don’t feel like I have to have a veteran staff as opposed to an energetic staff, so I’m looking in both areas. Like I said, a ton of great candidates, and we’re nailing that down as we speak.”
Despite all of that, Udoka’s biggest key to success might be getting Tatum and Brown to play their best and do it together.