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Pop’s coaching tree continues with Ime Udoka

The former assistant is about to kick off his first season as the head coach of the Boston Celtics.

Los Angeles Lakers vs San Antonio Spurs Set Number: SI742 TK1

Like Jacque Vaughn, Ime Udoka started out at an NBA player. And on two different occasions, Ime suited up for the Spurs. In fact, he and Vaughn played together.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

From 2007-2009, Vaughn and Udoka were both players. In 2011, Vaughn had joined the Spurs as an assistant coach, Udoka returned as a player.

In 2012, Udoka took the vacancy left when Vaughn accepted the head coaching job in Orlando.

Unafraid to move around, Udoka played for fourteen different teams throughout the NBA, the D-League, the International Basketball Association, the United States Basketball League, as well as leagues in Argentina, Spain, and France before moving into assistant coaching in San Antonio.

He spent seven season’s with the Spurs including their 2014 Championship season.

These Spurs are a tight-knit group. And when Pop sees potential, he does what he can to keep close . . . until it’s time to let go.

“Obviously my time in San Antonio was special,” Udoka said during a news conference. “I’ve been cut more as a player than I had guarantees — and my guarantees were in San Antonio as a player. And then spending seven years there with Coach Popovich kind of laid the foundation of who I want to be as a basketball coach.”

Ime has continued a relatively Spurs-oriented career as his next job after leaving San Antonio was to serve as an assistant to former Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown in Philadelphia. In his first season with the Spurs Udoka had worked alongside Brown who would depart at the end of the year for the head coaching position in Philly.

After one season with the 76ers, Udoka moved to Brooklyn where he was once again teamed up with Jacque Vaughn. In addition, Brooklyn GM Sean Marks (another former Spurs assistant who worked with Ime) and Tiago Splitter were on staff.

This summer, Ime Udoka was chosen to be the new head coach of the Boston Celtics. This will be his foray at this level of leadership. In the tradition of “family,” Will Hardy is joining Udoka on this leg of the journey.

Said Gregg Popovich:

“I couldn’t be more thrilled. The guy is a stalwart. People overemphasize Os-and-Xs in the league. All the coaches know their Os-and-Xs. It’s basketball. It’s not analytical geometry or something like that. That stuff’s not tough. But to understand how to get the most out of people, to develop relationships with players, to make people accountable, to make them want to play for you are really the keys. He’s got all of that. He’s really a gifted communicator. More than anything, he’s genuine. You know exactly what you’re getting.

All eyes will be on Boston this season to see how well prepared Udoka is for his first head coaching position. With accolades from Pop, a vote of confidence from the city that cloves him, and the knowledge he has accrued as a player and assistant, few Spurs fans will be surprised to see Ime do quite well.

Next up: Sean Marks

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