Rockets Owner Explains Ime Udoka Hire Following Celtics Scandal

'We're a forgiving society'


Apr 26, 2023

Ime Udoka’s actions may have cost him a head-coaching gig with the Boston Celtics, but the Houston Rockets didn’t feel the same when they hired the 45-year-old on Monday.

While the details of Udoka’s role in an improper workplace relationship remain unclear and undisclosed, the Celtics were clearly appalled to the point where they felt a season-long suspension was warranted. They even put the nail in the coffin, promoting Udoka’s former assistant, Joe Mazzulla, as the team’s head coach full-time before the All-Star Game.

But the Rockets have a different outlook. Houston, like Boston, is well aware of the details regarding Udoka’s actions which are hidden from the public eye. They remained in contact with the NBA, who investigated the situation months ago but still saw no reason to refrain from offering a second chance, as was explained during Udoka’s introductory press conference on Wednesday.

“We’re a forgiving society and everybody makes mistakes,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told reporters, per Esfandiar Baraheni of SDPN Sports. “And some things, maybe we shouldn’t forgive them for, but I think with what happened in his personal situation is definitely something we forgive for. I discussed it with the president of our organization, who is a woman, and she was very comfortable with the situation.”

This poses two schools of thought.

On the one hand, the “everyone deserves a second chance” cliche obviously fits this situation like a glove. Udoka is entitled to having his redemption shot in society. But on the other hand, it’s hard to buy stock into that when the Celtics were so adamant about pushing Udoka’s affiliation with the team as far and quickly as possible. Right off the bat, it was clear that Udoka wouldn’t be coming back. Why? The league MVP hasn’t even been announced, the first round of the playoffs isn’t finished and already he’s back on his feet with a head coaching position?

“We’re a forgiving world, and anybody that isn’t forgiving, then shame on them,” Fertitta said.

Then again, it’s Houston.

When Udoka was linked heavily to the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the season, they elected to run with Jacque Vaughn as opposed to the guy who guided Boston to an NBA Finals appearance. Perhaps Udoka could’ve even been enough to keep Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant from going AWOL, thus keeping the Nets in contention with the Celtics this season.

Either way, the more Udoka’s head coaching story unfolds, the more confusing it’s gotten.

Thumbnail photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Images
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