Ime Udoka already has endeared himself to Celtics fans by leading Boston to the NBA Finals in his first season as the franchise’s head coach.
If the Celtics finish the job, beat the Golden State Warriors and bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Boston, Udoka might never pay for another drink in establishments across New England.
We also might look back on Game 3 of the NBA Finals as some of Udoka’s finest work. Not just because the Celtics rebounded from a Game 2 blowout loss at Chase Center to defeat the Warriors 116-100 at TD Garden. But also because their bench boss provided an absolute gem of a quote.
Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com reported shortly after Game 3, citing a source, that Udoka stepped into the huddle during a timeout following an especially sloppy stretch and asked the Celtics a very direct question: “Will you guys stop playing like a–holes?”
The Celtics built a sizable first-half lead, but it started to shrink thanks to costly turnovers and then totally evaporated in the third quarter before Boston regained its composure and pulled away in the final frame. Udoka’s message seemingly was well received, providing yet another example of the rookie head coach pushing the perfect button at the perfect time. The team truly has bought in.
Much of Udoka’s public approval, of course, stems from the Celtics’ remarkable turnaround. Finally, the C’s are playing up to their potential, with Boston’s young cornerstones, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, evolving into legitimate NBA stars who impact the game on both ends of the floor.
But there’s also a relatability to Udoka, a former NBA journeyman who worked his tail off, both stateside and overseas, before joining the coaching ranks and again proving himself without any shortcuts. He’s a blue-collar guy, through and through, and it’s an identity that plays well in this region.
Boston fans appreciate talent and strategy. But they love directness and accountability, and Udoka clearly brings both to the table, both within the game and in his bigger-picture decision-making.
So far, it’s been a match made in heaven.