When the Celtics hired Ime Udoka to be their 18th head coach in franchise history, they also added a another branch to the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. Udoka was an assistant coach on Popovich’s Spurs staff from 2012-2019, including the team’s 2014 title run. He also played for Popovich in San Antonio from 2007-2009.
Udoka has managed to stand out among Popvich’s many assistants. The five-time NBA Champion and three-time Coach of the Year has raved about the Celtics’ new coach in the past. “He exudes a confidence and a comfort in his own skin where people just gravitate to him,” Popovich told ESPN in 2015. “He’s a fundamentally sound teacher because he’s comfortable with himself, he knows the material and players read it. Often times, I’ll say, ‘Ime, can you go talk to so-and-so? Go talk to Patty Mills, go talk to Timmy, go talk to Kawhi.’ And he’ll do it better than I would do it — and I’m not blowing smoke.”
Upon joining the Celtics, Udoka becomes the seventh former Popovich assistant to become a full-time head coach, and the third currently active in the league. Projecting his success based on Popovich’s previous proteges isn’t easy – Popovich has been a head coach since 1996 and such an expansive network is bound to deliver mixed results.
Who have been the most successful coaches to work under Popovich? The least? Let’s take a look at some notable names who served as assistant coaches under Popovich, become becoming head coaches elsewhere.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of Popovich’s coaching tree. He’s had former players find success as head coaches, such as Monty Williams and Steve Kerr. Even some of his G League coaches are now NBA head coaches, including Quin Snyder and Taylor Jenkins. Some of his assistants have gone on front office roles instead of moving up the coaching ranks, such as Sean Marks. His tree isn’t done growing either. Becky Hammon is expected to be hired as an NBA coach as soon as this offseason, which would make her the first female head coach in NBA history.
Where will Udoka end up ranking on the Popovich tree? Unlike many of the other names on this list, who were tasked with jumpstarting rebuilds, the 43-year-old inherits a team that is ready to win, and a franchise seemingly ready to be aggressive in making that happen.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.