It took Ime Udoka the best part of a decade to finally get a job as a head coach in the NBA.
He’d served as an assistant coach at the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, learning his craft under the likes of Gregg Popovich and Brett Brown.
But a shot at the top job was always on Udoka’s mind, and he admits that several franchises – including Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers – had passed on the chance to employ him as head coach in the past.
“The interview process started and there was a lot of interest,” the 44-year-old confirmed. “I was a finalist in a few destinations. You don’t place the blame on anybody or any situation. I believe I was ready. But I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships.”
For all his disappointment at missing out on the top job in the past, Udoka has channelled his frustrations into becoming one of the shrewdest operators in the NBA, turning the Boston Celtics into a defensive powerhouse while getting the best out of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and co.
By mid-June, we will know if the Celtics have ended their 14-year wait for an NBA Championship in the finals against the Golden State Warriors. If they do, much of the credit must go to Udoka – and the likes of Brad Stevens for giving him a chance to coach on the big stage.
The sportsbooks make Golden State their favourites, but there will be plenty of bettors who will take a chance on Boston. Many betting sites now offer a single wallet across sports, poker and casino, so any winnings from the NBA Finals can be parlayed into games like blackjack, roulette and craps at brands like BetMGM. For interested basketball fans, more information can be found here about how you can combine your sports betting and casino gaming with a single bankroll.
The Celtics rolled the dice on Udoka, and they might yet get the ultimate reward…
Could Experience Hold the Key to Final Flourish?
The Warriors are set to take part in their sixth NBA Finals in eight years – an extraordinary record, and particularly impressive given the depths they plummeted to in 2019 through 2021.
You wonder if that experience will ultimately prove vital in determining the Finals, although their clash on March 16 – the Celtics running out comfortable 110-88 winners – perhaps offered something of a glimpse of what to expect from the series. That was a contest in which the Warriors’ talisman Steph Curry suffered an ankle injury, but even so, Boston were good value for their victory.
But we can only query how much the Eastern Conference Finals will have taken out of the Celtics, who were taken to the buzzer in the seventh game against Miami Heat. The Warriors, in contrast, had a surprisingly easy time of things against the Luka Doncic inspired Dallas Mavericks, winning in five games with a nine-point or more margin in four of them.
So the scene is set perfectly… will it be the experience of the Warriors or the nous of Udoka that wins the NBA Finals? Either way, the Celtics look to be in the safest of hands.