Just about 24 hours after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke news that Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was facing “a significant suspension – for an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines,” the NBA franchise suspended its head coach for the entire 202-23 season for what is being reported as a consensual, improper relationship with a female member of the Celtics organization. The Ime Udoka suspension puts the future of the promising young Celtics coach in limbo.
In a press release about the Ime Udoka suspension, the Celtics announced that the coach is suspended for the entire 2022-23 season. However, coming back and coaching the team after that isn’t guaranteed. The Celtics also noted in the press release that “A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date.”
On ESPN after the suspension came down, Woj confirmed that Udoka’s future with Boston is still very much up in the air. However, the NBA insider also revealed after talking to other NBA organizations, Udoka “may become a candidate or a coach of interest for other jobs that might open or might become open during the season or certainly next season.”
There are still a lot of unknowns and many moving parts surrounding Udoka’s situation right now. So, we have no idea if, when, or exactly how Udoka would get out of his deal with Boston and hit the open market, either this season or next.
Despite the uncertainties, if Udoka was to somehow become a coaching free agent now or in the near future, several NBA teams would surely come calling. Here are the three teams that must pounce on Udoka if the Celtics cut him loose amid his suspension.
3. Detroit Pistons
Ime Udoka took a team with a solid young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart and took them from a .500 team in 2020-21 to the NBA Finals in 2022. So, motivating, improving, and shaping a team with incredible young talent is something we now know Udoka can do.
The Detroit Pistons are a few years behind where the Celtics were in 2020 in their rebuilding timeline. But they are a team with a solid young nucleus that could start showing significant improvement under the right head coach. Unfortunately, Dwane Casey is not that coach.
After putting up a 104-98 record over five seasons in the Motor City, the writing is on the wall that Casey’s time is near the end. Detroit needs a leader to start shaping this young team into a future contender.
And the Pistons do have all the parts to become a contender someday. Udoka could build around Cade Cunningham like he did with Jayson Tatum. And the Pistons have even more young, intriguing pieces than the Celtics did with Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers, Isaiah Stewart, and rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.
2. New York Knicks
If there is a big-name free agent on the market — be it a player, coach, or executive — the New York Knicks will come up as a possible destination. That’s going to happen after the Ime Udoka suspension.
Current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau did what he does after coming to the Knicks in 2020. He gave the Knicks a much-needed shot in the arm and made them a playoff team in his first season. Then, players wore out and tuned him out in year two, and the Knicks missed the postseason entirely.
The Knick coaching job is always a hot seat, and Thibs is definitely on one this year. Udoka would be a great replacement candidate to come in and build up the team around youngsters RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and whoever the Knicks draft with the 157 (give or take) draft picks they have the next few seasons.
Plus, if any franchise is going to pay (money or picks) to free Udoka from the Celtics, wouldn’t it be the Knicks?
1. Brooklyn Nets
The Knicks and the Pistons are interesting destinations for the coach after the Ime Udoka suspension. But they are not the most likely. If one NBA franchise decides to do whatever it takes to get Udoka out of Boston and into their gym in 2022-23, it’s the Brooklyn Nets.
First of all, the Nets know Udoka. From Joe Tsai on down to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they all know the coach from the 2020-21 season, when he was an assistant to Steve Nash.
Part of the reason that Udoka got the Celtics job in the first place was his relationships with star players like Durant and Irving. As a former player, Udoka knows where these guys are coming from and how to relate.
And after one of the most tumultuous offseasons in NBA history, the Nets are teetering on the brink of collapse. The organizations fended off trade requests from Durant and Irving this offseason and a demand from Durant to fire Nash and GM Sean Marks. If the 2022-23 season gets off to a rocky start for Brooklyn, something will have to give.
Firing Nash is the easiest next step for the Nets before blowing it up completely and dealing Durant. If Nash does go, Udoka seems like a logical replacement and one that Durant and Irving will accept and respect. They know him, and he proved his mettle by making the finals last season.
If the Ime Udoka suspension ends up with him coaching the Brooklyn Nets, don’t be surprised.