The controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving hasn’t just left the struggling Brooklyn Nets without their superstar point guard for at least the next five games. After Steve Nash’s departure earlier this week, the team’s subsequent attention on managing fallout from Irving’s promotion of an antisemitic film apparently put the brakes on Brooklyn naming its next head coach, too.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the Nets will be able to “turn their focus back on” vetting suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka as Nash’s full-time replacement now that Irving has been suspended.
“I think the last few days for Brooklyn, while they would’ve liked to be invested in a coaching search, they have been fully invested in dealing with this Kyrie Irving situation. I think today allows them to start to get back to figuring out if they’re gonna go the rest of the way down the road with Ime Udoka. I know that they’ve continued to ask questions, to vet the circumstances around his suspension—and essentially ouster—in Boston. But I think for Brooklyn, that’s a situation, a search, a candidacy with Ime Udoka that they can now start to turn their focus back to with Kyrie Irving suspended for at least these five games.”
Woj on where things stand with Ime Udoka possibly becoming the Nets head coach:#NBATwitter #NetsWorld pic.twitter.com/Wg0u0ni6t4
— 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧' 𝐍𝐁𝐀 (@_Talkin_NBA) November 4, 2022
Brooklyn suspended Irving on Thursday night after he once again refused to apologize for promoting an antisemitic film and answer with a simple affirmative that he didn’t harbor any antisemitic beliefs. He’s since issued an apology on Instagram.
News of the Nets’ imminent hiring of Udoka came less than two hours after the team parted ways with Nash on Tuesday. General manager Sean Marks said multiple times in the interim that Brooklyn had barely begun its coaching search, deflecting questions about his team’s interest in Udoka.
Udoka was an assistant under Nash during the latter’s debut season in Brooklyn two years ago. He left to take Boston’s head job before last season, shrugging off early struggles to lead the Celtics through a tough gauntlet of Eastern Conference playoff foes to the NBA Finals.
In late September, Boston suspended Udoka for the duration of 2022-23 after a female subordinate with whom he’d had a consensual sexual relationship accused him of sending her “unwanted” text messages. Though the Celtics officially left the door open for Udoka’s return after the season, recent intel suggests management believed his transgressions were serious enough that his time in Boston was likely finished.
Interim coach Joe Mazzulla seems set to have the “interim” tag removed from his current position with the Celtics soon. Expect Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn, meanwhile, to be one of Udoka’s lead assistants in Brooklyn.