The Nets intend to hire Ime Udoka to replace Steve Nash as their head coach, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Udoka is technically still the Celtics‘ head coach, but he has been suspended for the 2022/23 season after allegedly engaging in an improper relationship with a female subordinate. Boston granted Brooklyn permission to speak to Udoka and will allow him to leave freely, sources tell Charania.
In the wake of Nash’s departure from the franchise, Charania initially reported (via Twitter) that Udoka had emerged as the “strong frontrunner” for the Nets’ job, adding that the team was still doing its due diligence, but had begun talking to the Celtics’ coach. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN subsequently stated (via Twitter) that Brooklyn could hire Udoka within the next 24-to-48 hours.
A former assistant in San Antonio and Philadelphia, Udoka spent a season on the Nets’ staff under Nash in 2020/21 before being hired by the Celtics. Brooklyn’s hope, Wojnarowski tweets, is that Udoka will be able to tighten up the club’s defense and command the respect of the Nets’ stars, including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
According to Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link), the Nets have been vetting Udoka for the last few days, presumably gathering more information about his conduct that led to his suspension – and now his potential exit – from the Celtics.
Wojnarowski said several weeks ago that Udoka would face a “difficult pathway” back to his job with the Celtics after being replaced by this season by Joe Mazzulla. Wojnarowski’s report indicated that an independent investigation into Udoka’s conduct found that he used “crude language” toward the female subordinate prior to beginning an improper relationship with her, which was said to be a significant factor in the length of his suspension.
In his first season as a head coach, Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 record and a spot in the NBA Finals. Given his job performance on the court, the fact that Boston appears willing to let Udoka go to a division rival without any compensation speaks to how the team felt about his off-court behavior.
The Nets have been at the center of many of the NBA’s biggest stories in recent months, including Durant’s extended offseason trade saga, Irving’s promotion of an antisemitic film on social media, and Ben Simmons‘ struggle to recapture his All-Star form following a 16-month layoff. Hiring Udoka following his ugly exit from the Celtics figures to only add to the drama in Brooklyn.
Until Udoka’s hiring is official, Jacque Vaughn is reportedly expected to serve as the Nets’ interim head coach, starting on Tuesday night when the team hosts the Bulls.