Pain was the common emotion in the locker room for the Boston Celtics after dropping Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, coach Ime Udoka said.
In his postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin, Udoka said that after getting this far, to within two wins of a championship, suffering a season-ending loss like the 103-90 decision at TD Garden is going to sting.
That's not to say it was all doom and gloom from the Celtics' first-year head coach, who told Chin he shared a message of better days ahead with the team after the Golden State Warriors secured their fourth championship in the last eight seasons.
"I'm proud of the overall year," Udoka said he told the team. "We went through a lot. The foundation has been set."
As recently as Jan. 6, the Celtics were 18-21, in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
"We'll try to paint a broad look at the big picture of the things we did well this year and what we can build on," Udoka said.
Udoka can provide a unique perspective when it comes to losing in the NBA Finals in his first year in a role. A first-year assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio in 2013, the Spurs were 5 seconds away from finishing off LeBron James and the Heat in Game 6 when former Celtics guard Ray Allen drilled a corner 3 to help force overtime, a game Miami would go on to win before capturing Game 7 and the series.
"It's always going to sit with you," Udoka said. "The way I lost it, you always remember that. You have to use it as fuel and motivation and experience to propel you forward...We'll learn from this as a staff and that's what I said with the guys, no one can come back the same."
Those Spurs, who featured the likes of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, would return to the Finals the very next year and beat the Heat with Udoka still on staff.
Can the Celtics get back to the Finals in Udoka's second year behind the bench in Boston? As he noted to Chin, you have to move on eventually, with the draft, free agency and summer league coming in the weeks ahead.
Until then, Udoka and the Celtics be both disappointed in the way things ended while still looking through a half-full glass at the future.