HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets Wednesday announced they have named Ime Udoka [ee-MAY ooh-DOH-ka] the 15th head coach in franchise history.
In his lone season as head coach of Boston in 2021-22, Udoka helped the Celtics bounce back from a .500 record the previous season to win 51 games, capped off with an impressive run to the NBA Finals which included Game 7 victories over Milwaukee and Miami.
“We are excited to welcome Ime to the Houston Rockets,” said Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone. “Ime’s intelligence, drive and toughness were the traits we were looking for in a coach to lead our team through this next stage of our development as we strive to become a champion. We were honored to have the opportunity to speak to multiple outstanding candidates throughout the interview process and felt that Ime’s vision best aligned with the goals the Fertitta Family and myself have for the future of the Rockets.”
Udoka’s Celtics ranked first in the league in both field goal defense and fewest points allowed in 2021-22 after the team ranked 13th in defensive rating the previous season. He was a two-time winner of the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award and finished fourth in voting for Coach of the Year.
Prior to becoming head coach of the Celtics, Udoka was an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio staff from 2012-13 through 2018-19, Brett Brown’s Philadelphia staff in 2019-20 and Steve Nash’s Brooklyn staff in 2020-21, Those teams made the playoffs in each of Udoka’s nine seasons as an assistant, with the Spurs winning the title in 2013-14. Udoka was also a member of Popovich’s staff for USA Basketball during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
As a player, Udoka spent parts of seven seasons in the NBA from 2003-04 through 2010-11 while appearing in 316 games with 80 starts. After going undrafted in 2000, he had brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York but spent most of his time in the NBA Development League and playing overseas. Udoka’s first full NBA season was as a 29-year-old for Portland in 2006-07 and the following season, he helped the Spurs reach the Western Conference Finals. Besides Popovich, Udoka played for Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, Nate McMillan and Paul Westphal.
Udoka, whose father was of Nigerian decent, represented the Nigerian national team and was the team’s leading scorer at the 2006 FIBA World Championships. His sister, Mfon, played in the WNBA, including for the Houston Comets in 2003.