Ime Sunday Udoka born August 9, 1977) is a Nigerian-American professional basketball coach and former player who is the head coach for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He represented the Nigeria national team during his playing career.
Udoka was born in Portland, Oregon on August 9, 1977. He attended Portland’s Jefferson High School.
Udoka played for Utah State University Eastern and the University of San Francisco before transferring to Portland State University where he starred for the Vikings.
Udoka started his professional basketball career by playing in the NBDL with the Charleston Lowgators who drafted him with 39th overall pick in 2002 NBDL Draft. He was called up to play with the Los Angeles Lakers on January 14, 2004, but was later waived. After a stint in Europe, he returned to the states and once again drafted in NBDL. This time he was drafted 3rd overall by Fort Worth Flyers in 2005 NBDL Draft. He averaged 17.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game with the Flyers. On April 6, 2006, Udoka was signed by the New York Knicks. Udoka was waived by the Knicks on September 11, 2006.
Udoka was the last player invited to his hometown Portland Trail Blazers training camp before the 2006–07 season, getting the invitation only after Aaron Miles failed a physical. Despite the death of his father during the preseason, Udoka impressed the coaching staff with his defensive skills and made the team. After having played in only 12 NBA games in his career, Udoka started in 75 games played in the 2006–07 season. He played 28.6 minutes per game while averaging 8.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.9 steals.
In 2007, Udoka signed a contract with the San Antonio Spurs. He played in 73 games averaging 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18 minutes. On his second season with the Spurs, Udoka played in 67 games, and started in three. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.4 minutes.
Following the 2009 season, Udoka became a free agent, eventually re-signing with the Trail Blazers. He was waived by the Blazers on October 22, 2009, but signed with the Sacramento Kings on November 4, 2009. He played 69 games with the Kings, averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.7 minutes.
On November 24, 2010, Udoka rejoined the Spurs, but he was waived on January 5, 2011 after playing only 20 games.
On December 15, 2011, Udoka signed with the New Jersey Nets. However, he was waived on December 23, 2011.
In January 2012, Udoka signed with UCAM Murcia of the Spanish Liga ACB.
San Antonio Spurs (2012–2019)
In August 2012, Udoka joined the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich. Udoka would win his first championship after the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals 4–1.
Udoka was also the key for LaMarcus Aldridge‘s decision to join the Spurs in 2015. Both Udoka and Aldridge played together with the Trail Blazers during Aldridge’s rookie season.
Philadelphia 76ers (2019–2020)
In June 2019, Udoka was hired as an assistant coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Udoka’s head coach on the 76ers, Brett Brown, also coached under Gregg Popovich for the Spurs, and Udoka and Brown were on the same staff in the 2012–13 season.
Brooklyn Nets (2020–2021)
On October 30, 2020, the Brooklyn Nets hired Udoka as an assistant coach.
Boston Celtics (2021–present)
On June 28, 2021, Udoka was hired as head coach of the Boston Celtics, becoming the 5th head coach of African origin in Boston Celtics history. Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 record despite starting the season 18-21 and made their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. However the Celtics would lose in six games to the Golden State Warriors.
National team career
Udoka was a player on the Nigerian national team. At the 2006 FIBA World Championships, Udoka led Nigeria in scoring, assists, and steals. Udoka also played for Nigeria in the 2005 and 2011 FIBA Africa Championships, winning a bronze medal in both tournaments.
Udoka has served as an assistant coach for USA Basketball under his Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich. Udoka’s coaching role on the 2019 FIBA World Cup team helped him build relationships with Celtics players Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart, who advocated for his hiring as the new Boston head coach. Udoka also coached for Team USA under Popovich at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, along with Celtics assistant Will Hardy.
Udoka’s father was of Nigerian descent, which qualified the younger Udoka for Nigerian citizenship. His older sister, Mfon, played in the WNBA. His mother, who died in late 2011, was an American from Illinois.
In November 2011, Udoka’s then-girlfriend, Nia Long gave birth to their first child, Kez Sunday Udoka. The couple became engaged in May 2015.