Former Nigeria captain Ime Udoka thrilled after first NBA win as a coach
Former captain of Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team Ime Udoka is happy to have finally secured his first win as a head coach in the National Basketball Association after leading the Boston Celtics to their maiden win of the on-going season.
The Celtics, 17-time winners of the NBA championship, defeated the Rockets 107-97 on Sunday night in Houston to record their first win of the 2021/2022 season.
“It’s special,” Udoka told the media after the game. “Got the water shower in there from the guys and the game ball. I told the guys it’s overdue, it took you too long to get it.
“Thank Jaylen (Brown) and Romeo (Langford) for helping, seeing as how they sat out tonight. It’s good to get a win, not just for the first, but to get us rolling on the right foot. Played the right way tonight, defended how we could after that first quarter,” added Udoka, a former NBA player himself, who paid his dues as an assistant coach for years, including stints with the Spurs, 76ers and Nets.
Although Udoka made mention of how long it took to get his first win, it didn’t take that long. Three games to be exact. But it probably felt like an eternity from Udoka’s vantage point after starting the season off with back-to-back losses.
“I can only imagine being a head coach,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, “first head-coaching job in the NBA, just to get that off your back, get the first one out the way. I’m sure it means a lot to him, his family. I’m happy for him.”
Tatum did his part to help Udoka get the win, as he poured in a season-high 31 points.
Al Horford also came up big with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three steals and three blocks.
Dennis Schroder logged 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists, while Grant Williams matched Schroder’s scoring mark while knocking down a career-high five 3-pointers.
It was a performance level that was conspicuously absent during Boston’s 33-point loss to the Toronto Raptors last Friday.
“I would say overall, that’s who we are,” Udoka said of the toughness that the Celtics displayed at Houston. “That’s who we’ve been in the preseason, and all the practices are spirited and competitive. So I look at that [loss to the Raptors] as more of an aberration than the norm.
“We got back to what we did tonight, which is compete at a high level, matched this young team’s energy and really shared the ball and defended well. So that’s what we’re looking for: consistency going forward. And we brought it well tonight.”
More important to Udoka than the win is the momentum that he hopes to build from it, as his team take on Charlotte Monday night.
“It’s good to get a win, not just for the first, but to get us rolling on the right foot. As for the memento that almost rolled away, I may look at the ball someday. But it’s on to Charlotte now,” added the 44-year-old, referring to the game ball that was handed to him at the end of Sunday night’s game.