Could Hawks Pursue Ex-Celtic Ime Udoka Following Reported Coach Firing?

Atlanta reportedly has a former Jazz coach at the top of their list


February 21

The Hawks have dismissed head coach Nate McMillan, according to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday.

The reported move comes as Atlanta holds a 29-30 record, which is good for eighth in the Eastern Conference, as of Tuesday. Assistant Joe Prunty will serve as interim head coach, according to Wojnarowski.

McMillan led the Hawks to the conference finals when he took over as interim head coach after Lloyd Pierce was fired in the middle of the 2020-21 season. But Atlanta has stumbled in McMillan’s third year, and it appears it wants to go in a different direction.

“The Hawks are starting a search for a new head coach immediately,” sources told Wojnarowski. “Among the top characteristics in the search: player development, accountability and getting Hawks offense and defense into league’s Top 10.”

Those are high expectations for a team that ranks 16th in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating, as of Tuesday.

Atlanta will conduct a “wide-ranging search,” but it has former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder on top of its list, according to Wojnarowski. Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson also are expected to be considered.

Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez, San Antonio Spurs assistant Mitch Johnson and G League South Bay’s Miles Simon also are expected to be candidates, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Lee is viewed as a serious candidate due to his time as an assistant under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta from 2014-2018.

President of basketball operations Travis Schlenk and general manager Landry Fields also could consider Ime Udoka, who reportedly is no longer employed by the Boston Celtics after Joe Mazzulla was elevated from his interim status.

Udoka has been praised for his ability as a coach to get the best out of his players and be a leader that a young Atlanta roster could need. Jayson Tatum called Udoka his “favorite coach,” and Jaylen Brown has expressed hope he gets another job in the NBA someday.

Hawks guard Dejounte Murray still has a high opinion of Udoka from their time in San Antonio when the latter was an assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff.

Udoka was suspended by the Celtics in September for violations of team policy. Those violations reportedly stemmed from him making “unwanted” comments and using “crude language” while engaging in an improper relationship with a Celtics female staffer.

There still is very little details on these actions, which is why his future in the NBA remains up in the air. The Brooklyn Nets had pursued Udoka after they parted ways with Steve Nash, but there reportedly were “strong voices” inside the organization, including women in leadership that urged owner Joe Tsai to back off Udoka.

There are multiple options Atlanta can choose from, but with the Patrick Beverley signing with the Bulls, it’s clear the play-in race in the Eastern Conference will be a tightly contested one.

Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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