Celtics

Who's the best coaching fit for Celtics: Udoka, Billups or Ham?

Celtics

Three candidates reportedly are the favorites in the Boston Celtics' head coach search. But who's the leader in the clubhouse among those three?

The Celtics are expected to interview Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham a second time, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday.

Billups is popular in NBA circles: The five-time All-Star and NBA champion reportedly is a "prominent candidate" for the Portland Trail Blazers opening and also has drawn interest from the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, per Wojnarowski. He's also the fans' choice to take the Celtics' job, apparently.

But Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix has his eye on the other two candidates -- particularly Udoka.

"Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are two of the best assistants in the NBA right now. ... I think Udoka is the guy," Mannix said Friday on "Boston Sports Tonight," as seen in the video player above.

"Udoka's been in the system with San Antonio, with Philadelphia and now with Brooklyn. He's paid his dues and is respected in every organization he's been to. Same with Darvin Ham, who's been Mike Budenholzer's top lieutenant in two organizations. So, I don't think you can go wrong."

Udoka, who played a total of seven NBA seasons, spent seven years as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich on the Spurs before joining Brett Brown with the 76ers in 2019-20 and Steve Nash with the Nets this season. He also was an assistant at the 2019 FIBA World Cup for a Team USA squad that featured three current Celtics in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

 

Udoka received "strong reviews" from the Celtics contingent after the World Cup, per Wojnarowski. And Mannix believes the 43-year-old is the type of head coach new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is looking for.

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"It's so hard to get a read on what Brad likes. You don't have a track record for him," Mannix said. "But Udoka, I think he fits the mold (of) like a grinder. He's going to relate to players really well -- has in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. I think he is going to be a strong candidate for this job."

There are other candidates in Boston's pool -- Brian Scalabrine believes Duke women's basketball coach Kara Lawson will be the next Celtics head coach -- but for now, it looks like Billups, Udoka and Ham are the names to focus on.