Should the Celtics' success without Ime Udoka concern the Rockets?

2022 NBA Finals - Game Six
2022 NBA Finals - Game Six / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets' recent search for the 16th coach in franchise history concluded with the franchise hiring Ime Udoka, the former Boston Celtics coach and Gregg Popovich disciple. The Rockets went above and beyond to hire Udoka, and were reportedly determined to do whatever they deemed necessary to land the embattled head coach.

Granted, none of this would have transpired if the franchise didn't feel comfortable with Udoka's alleged past, and/or his ability to move forward from his past transgressions. The Rockets did their research and made Udoka their man, giving the player-turned-coach a gaudy payday to the tune of four years and $28 million.

But many have questioned whether Udoka was really all that impactful of a coach in Boston, based on how the Celtics have fared in their first season without Udoka. The C's went 57-25 in their first season without Udoka, an improvement over their 51-31 record with him in 2021-22. 

Should the Celtics' success without Ime Udoka concern the Rockets?

As of this writing, the Celtics are in the second round of the postseason with a key Game 7 matchup looming against the Philadelphia 76ers. Regardless of the outcome of that game, the C's have had a great season, especially considering the scandal that's rocked that organization. 

But it's worth noting that Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla hails from the Udoka tree (if one exists yet). Anytime an assistant gets promoted to head coach, there are always questions regarding exactly how different the game plan and strategy will be.

There's typically not a drastic difference there, as the more common difference exists as it pertains to the demeanor and personality of the coach. But more importantly, the Celtics took the first leap under Udoka.

Keep in mind, the Celtics were 36-36 before Udoka arrived in 2021, the epitome of mediocre. In fact, that team was a first round exit in the 2021 postseason. 

Under Udoka, they went to the Finals and won 62 percent of their games in his first season. Udoka laid the ground work for the unit to take the next step.

Frankly, if the team regressed, one might view that as an indictment on Udoka, as it could possibly signal that he didn't instill winning ways, habits, and behaviors on the group. And again, seeing how one of his own is guiding the team, one would wonder whether Udoka wasn't all that successful of a coach, if his own guy caused the team to regress.

But above all else, even if you believe Udoka's brilliance is under question because of how well the Celtics have bounced back without him, the Rockets had to make this move. The ownership needed to signal to fans that they were committed to winning.

And especially an owner that's been viewed by many as a cost-conservative owner in Tilman Fertitta. Giving Udoka the bag was something that needed to happen to dispel that notion, regardless of whether Udoka was really the cause of the Celtics' success.