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Reports: Houston Rockets to hire Ime Udoka as new head coach

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 16: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on March 16, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

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The Houston Rockets are looking to make a leap next season from rebuilding to a playoff team, and they set out on their coaching search looking for the person who could command a locker room mixed with young players and veterans.

Enter Ime Udoka.

There is an “agreement in principle” to make former Celtics coach Udoka the new head coach of the Houston Rockets. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was first but multiple sources have since confirmed the news.

Udoka has been the frontrunner for the Rockets’ job almost since the day Stephen Silas was let go. Houston interviewed others including Frank Vogel, Sam Cassell and James Borrego, but the buzz around the league was the target was always Udoka. With the Raptors firing Nick Nurse and rumors they had some interest in Udoka as a replacement, the Rockets quickly locked up their man.

Udoka had a seven-year NBA playing career before first jumping on the staff of Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and working his way up the coaching ranks. After leading the Celtics to the Finals a year ago, Udoka was away from the team this season after news of an inappropriate relationship with a Celtics’ staffer surfaced (Joe Mazzula took his place and led the team to the second-best record in the NBA).

The buzz out of Houston is Rockets ownership and management want to move on from the past few years of rebuilding and start winning again next season. While a new coach is part of that changeover, roster upgrades are needed — they will have an estimated $64 million in cap space to play with. The rumor with the most smoke is they will go after free agent to be James Harden, with multiple sources telling NBC Sports there is some level of mutual interest. However, what happens in these playoffs and what offers end up on the table in front of Harden will go a long way to deciding his next move.

Whether it’s Harden or someone else, look for the Rockets to take big swings this off-season. Part of their selling point to veterans will be having Udoka in the fold.