The Rockets introduced new coach Ime Udoka on Wednesday and both the team and Udoka have made it clear the past is in the past.
More accurately, it’s a fresh start for everyone. The Rockets get a coach who led the Celtics to the Finals last season. Udoka gets a team after being suspended for the year for what the Celtics described as an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.
“I would say in general, like (Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta) alluded to, they’ve done their due diligence and homework on who I am as a person,” Udoka said, via Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald. “I think we spent quality time together, getting to know each other, and clicked pretty easily and pretty well. But overall, I released a statement months ago when everything happened and apologized to a lot of people for the tough position I put them in, and I stand by that.
“I feel much more remorse even now towards that. I spent this last offseason working on myself in a lot of different ways, improving in areas, chance to sit back, reflect and grow. And I think that will make me a better coach and overall a better leader. But, the situation, the matter has been resolved and I can’t really speak much about it.”
y'all ready? 🤘 pic.twitter.com/TSEZBtCVyL
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 26, 2023
The Celtics finished 51-31 in Udoka’s lone season as an NBA coach. Rockets GM Rafael Stone added the team looked into not just Udoka the coach, but Udoka the person.
“We did diligence not just on him, but on every candidate we have. We do it on every important hire,’ Stone said. “And so what I would say is we got comfortable that it was an appropriate hire and we were comfortable in the process. But just the same way I wouldn’t talk about exactly what we did with anybody else, I’m not going to talk about it with Ime. It’s just, in my view, it’s not appropriate.”
For the record, plenty of Udoka’s former players — including Celtics wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — have offered public support. It’s not gone unnoticed by Udoka.
“I think it’s big. It’s really the character of who you are, is the people who really know you,” he said. “Not only in a tough situation, but throughout the years. Tilman said he’s talked to people going back to my playing days, obviously coaches who I’ve worked with and then to hear those things is big. It’s what means the most to me. The relationships with the guys and ultimately seeing them do well is what I do it for.
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