If there's anyone who knows what new Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is capable of, it's Gregg Popovich.
Udoka spent seven years (2012-19) working under Popovich as an assistant on the San Antonio Spurs. The duo also spent time together with Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and Udoka will join Popovich's staff once again for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
After Team USA's first practice Tuesday, Popovich raved about Udoka and everything he brings to the table as a coach.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Popovich said about Udoka's opportunity in Boston, via MassLive.com's Souichi Terada. “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," he added. "With him, less is more; he’s not a talker. He’s a communicator. More than anything, he’s genuine. You know exactly what you’re getting. I’m sure that’s what Brad Stevens felt when he interviewed him for the first time.”
Popovich's comments echo what Udoka had to say during his introductory press conference. The 43-year-old stressed the importance of communicating with his players and not being afraid to push them. Celtics stars Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart already have experience with Udoka having played for him during the FIBA World Cup.
Udoka is the 18th head coach in Celtics history.