Ime Udoka and Jayson Tatum got a head start on what might be a long NBA relationship.
The Boston Celtics head coach revealed to reporters Tuesday how he and the C’s superstar benefitted from the time they spent together at the Tokyo Olympics.
Instead of smothering Tatum with his voice and basketball views, Udoka ceded the responsibility of teaching Tatum to Team USA’s other coaches. After all, they’ll have countless opportunities to work together in Boston.
“Obviously, we spent a ton of time to kind of strengthen our bond,” Udoka said, per The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “But I just kind of let him learn from the other coaches. I hit him with little gems here and there about things he can implement when he doesn’t have the ball, like he will in Boston. So trying to work on some of those things.”
Udoka’s approach is somewhat surprising, as many would expect him to try to coach up Tatum early and often on their Olympic journey. How their relationship unfolds over time ultimately will tell whether Udoka’s hands-off approach proved effective.
Udoka also praised Tatum for how he came off the bench for Team USA and impacted games in a positive way.
“The bench role (on Team USA) was something different for him, but he accepted it,” Udoka continued. “And if you look at his numbers overall, I think (he was the) second-leading scorer behind Kevin (Durant). He did a great job and obviously he played great in the last game.”
Tatum’s professional relationship with Udoka started two years ago when they worked together as part of Team USA’s 2019 FIBA World Cup squad. Their bond crystalized earlier this summer when the Celtics hired Udoka as head coach in a move Tatum supported.
It sounds like they’ll be on the same page, personally and professionally, when they begin their working together in Boston.