Over the past two seasons, the Celtics and Nets have developed somewhat of a rivalry centered around Kyrie Irving. That rivalry – which has involved Celtics’ fans as much as the team itself – hit an apex during the teams’ first-round playoff series, which concluded with Irving stomping on the Celtics’ logo at mid court.
Ime Udoka was an assistant coach for the Nets during that series, but will now switch sides as he comes to Boston to replace Brad Stevens as the Celtics’ head coach. Joining 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand for the first time on Tuesday, Udoka was asked how he viewed Boston as an NBA city before joining the team.
“First off, I’d say the fan base is obviously passionate as hell – and that’s an understatement,” he replied. “They bleed green out here, as well as all the other sports, the Patriots, Bruins and Red Sox. So you know that coming in is going to be a hostile environment for opponents…I look at it as a positive with our guys. It’s a hard place to come into play and we embrace that.”
Udoka also touched on Irving’s comments made before Game 3 of that series, involving racist incidents in Boston in the past. “You hear about things all the time – different cities in the NBA. I personally haven’t experienced any of that,” he noted. “Not to downplay anything that Kyrie went through.”
“I think with the social injustice initiatives that our team is at the forefront of, we’re kind of addressing certain issues and bonding guys together,” Udoka continued, pointing out the work Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have done both in the local community and nationally. “Give Jaylen and Jayson, some of those young guys credit, they’ve dove right in and tried to mend certain areas. And I commend them. I sure wasn’t that savvy at 23 or 25 years old.”
You can listen to Udoka’s full conversation with Zolak & Bertrand below.