Ever since Ime Udoka’s hiring, players and coaches around the league have praised the Celtics’ new head coach hire. Maybe none more important than the latest supporter: Celtics cornerstone Jayson Tatum.
Tatum spoke publicly for the first time since the hiring while at Team USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas, where he and Udoka are preparing for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. The two have been seen chatting it up with smiles on their faces – a positive sight for Celtics fans everywhere.
“When you’re coming up as an assistant, when you get your first head coach job, you’re driven and motivated,” Tatum said, via MassLive. “From the conversations I’ve had with him since he’s got the job, I can just tell he’s really, really excited.”
Udoka’s motivation is evident in recent days. Not only is he in Las Vegas preparing for the Olympics, but he is also filling out his cabinet. Most recently, Udoka and the Celtics hired former NBA Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire as an assistant coach.
Udoka and Tatum’s relationship is paramount for the Celtics’ future. Boston is built around Tatum, and he has proven that he can be the star on a championship-caliber team. So, if you are Brad Stevens & Co., you want to do whatever makes Tatum happy.
That is why Tatum was consulted during the head coach hiring process. He said he knew most of the candidates and liked most of them.
“I had somewhat of a relationship with all of them, and I basically told him you can’t go wrong,” Tatum said. “It’s their job in the front office to make the decisions, and it’s my job to go out there and play. That’s basically it.”
Priority No. 1 for the Celtics is to make sure Tatum doesn’t become a flight risk. Right now, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to worry about.
“It’s going to be fun and we’re going to try to accomplish something big,” Tatum said.
Tatum is not the only one who has sung the praises of Udoka recently. While at Team USA training camp, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called his former assistant a ‘stalwart’ and commended him for his ability to connect with players.
“People overemphasize O’s and X’s in the league. All the coaches know their O’s and X’s. It’s basketball, it’s not analytical geometry or something like that,” Popovich said. “But to understand how to get the most out of people, to develop relationships with players, to make people accountable and make them want to play for you – are really the keys, and he’s got all that.
“He’s really a gifted communicator, although with him, less is more. He’s not a talker, he’s a communicator. And more than anything, he’s genuine. And you know exactly what you’re getting.”
That is high praise, coming from a five-time NBA champion head coach who is widely considered the best of his generation.
For Celtics fans, they should hope Udoka’s communication translates well with the players. As of now, all signs point to a positive relationship between the C’s new head coach and their young star.