Nets will regret letting Ime Udoka slip from right beneath them

It is a matter of public report that the New York Football Giants as soon as had staff named Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Bill Belichick go away their group with out being supplied the position of head coach. That reality is likely to be a crucial supply of comfort to the Nets if Ime Udoka seems to be a famous person they let get away. 

The Nets spent a lot time and power final year on their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden that maybe they lost sight of the truth that there was actually a Big 4 everyone missed. Once extra with feeling, both Nets common supervisor Sean Marks and proprietor Joe Tsai didn’t know that Udoka was particular, or did know that he was particular, however lacked the do-whatever-it-takes nerve to exchange head coach Steve Nash along with his assistant earlier than mentioned assistant jumped to the division rival Celtics, who now stand three victories away from an NBA title. 

Neither clarification is any good. 

But right here we’re, one sport deep into the Finals, and it’s already clear that the 44-year-old Udoka, additionally a former Spurs and 76ers assistant, ought to have been a head coach a very long time in the past. His Boston Celtics ambushed the Golden State Warriors within the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night time, draining 3s from in all places to show a double-digit deficit right into a double-digit victory and, briefly anyway, mocking the notion that each one of that Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Draymond Green championship muscle reminiscence would overwhelm the Celtics when it mattered most. 

Ime Udoka
Ime Udoka
NBAE by way of Getty Images

It’s fairly potential that Golden State’s profitable technique towards Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who missed 14 of 17 pictures, will maintain up over the steadiness of the collection, and that the Warriors will get better from their gorgeous collapse and win their fourth title previously eight seasons. 

It’s additionally fairly potential that the Celtics’ capacity to win Game 1, regardless of an off night time from their finest participant, will embolden them to win the franchise’s 18th title, breaking their historic tie with the Lakers. 

Either method, Udoka has already earned his standing among the many best possible coaches within the league. He took a Boston crew that, beneath Brad Stevens, was a monument to mediocrity final year (36-36 within the common season) earlier than being bum-rushed out of the primary spherical by Nash’s Nets, and coached it into the present juggernaut that humiliated Nash’s Nets in a first-round sweep after which gained Game 7s towards the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and the top-seeded Miami Heat. 

No rookie coach had ever gained a pair of Game 7s. Though Stevens helped the trigger from his front-office suite by delivery out Kemba Walker within the Al Horford deal and by buying Derrick White, Udoka pulled this off with the identical holdover central cast of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. How? 

“We look at ourselves as a unit,” Udoka mentioned. “A complete team. We look at the other teams, Brooklyn with Durant, the Bucks with [Giannis] Antetokounmpo, Miami with [Jimmy] Butler. We pride ourselves on being a team that plays together.” 

Ime Udoka, left, embraces Kevin Durant during the first round.
Ime Udoka, left, embraces Kevin Durant through the first spherical.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Basketball individuals wish to consult with gamers who appear to be invested in each other as “connected.” The Celtics are related. Udoka helped Tatum and Brown discover their candy spot as a tandem, helped Boston turn into a defensive drive, and helped Smart turn into the most effective stopper within the sport. 

It wasn’t simple. The Celtics lost half of their first 50 video games, inspiring doubts about whether or not their two offensive stars would ever determine it out, and about whether or not the rookie coach was the right voice within the huddle. Then they gained 26 of their closing 32 video games, and did completely nothing to keep away from the Nets within the opening spherical. 

Boston didn’t simply notarize itself as a legit contender in that sweep. The Celtics additionally uncovered each main and minor flaw up and down the Nets’ organizational circulate chart, forcing Brooklyn’s elders to do intensive soul looking and to admit publicly that their tradition was all screwed up. Marks all however challenged Kyrie Irving to a duel, which ought to make for some enjoyable summertime studying. 

Udoka did all of that to his former employer. Just as Nash, the Hall of Famer, was on a distinct planet as a participant than Udoka, the journeyman bench man, it certain seems the Celtics coach is on a distinct planet than Nash of their second career. And he’s solely going to get higher with reps. 

If the Celtics win all of it, Udoka will be part of his opponent, Steve Kerr, and Nick Nurse and Tyronn Lue as head coaches who gained titles of their rookie seasons, and he will match Red Sox supervisor Alex Cora as a Year 1 champ in Boston. But even when Kerr’s Warriors prevail, Udoka’s game-night method (finest described as projecting a vibe of quiet energy) and skill to encourage and modify ought to make the Celtics’ coach an enormous sideline star over the lengthy haul. 

And that isn’t excellent news for any Eastern Conference rival, particularly the Nets, who simply might need let a Lombardi, Landry, or Belichick stroll out the door. 

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