Ime Udoka: The First NBA Head Coach Of African Origin

by Duke Magazine

Nigeria’s Ime Sunday Udoka was earlier this week announced as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. The feat that makes him the 18th coach and sixth Black coach in the 75-year history of the NBA club. He now joins the likes of Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Tom Sanders, M.L. Carr, and Doc Rivers as the coaches of the franchise.

Born in the United States, Udoka represented the Nigerian basketball national team at the 2005 FIBA African Championship where he led his team to win a bronze medal. He also led his team to him a bronze-medal win at the 2011 Afrobasketball championship.

Udoka joins the Celtics franchise after spending the last nine NBA seasons as an assistant coach between San Antonio (2012/13 and 2018/19), Philadelphia (2019/20), and Brooklyn (2020/21). Teams that Udoka has had a stint with as an assistant coach have qualified for the playoffs in all nine seasons, with one of those years resulting in an NBA championship (Spurs, 2014).

“It’s his authenticity, his ability to be tough and yet very warm, and it’s his experience,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens. “Not only the experience of playing but being eight through 15 on the roster a lot, and then being in San Antonio all those years, and then the last two years seeing totally different things up close in Philly and Brooklyn is a great thing. We could go on and on with the adjectives, but that really stood out as separating him throughout this process.”

In addition to his coaching experience in the NBA, Udoka also served as an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich and the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in 2018. With 12 years of professional career as a basketball player, including seven NBA seasons, the 43-year-old new head coach averaged 5.2 points on 41.7% shooting (35.6% 3-PT), 2.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 18.1 minutes in 316 career games with San Antonio, Portland, Sacramento, New York, and the Los Angeles Lakers.

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