Former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka has agreed on a deal to be hired as coach of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, according to multiple media reports on Monday.
The Houston Chronicle and ESPN cited unnamed sources that said a deal had been struck for Udoka to take charge of a club that went 22-60 this past season, missing the playoffs for the third consecutive campaign.
Udoka, considered a top contender for the vacant Toronto Raptors job, was suspended by the Celtics for the 2022-23 season last September for an improper workplace relationship with a subordinate.
Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla was made Boston’s interim head coach until handed the position on a permanent basis in February.
The Rockets spoke with league and Celtics officials about the matter before making the offer to Udoka, ESPN reported.
Udoka, 45, played seven seasons in the NBA before retiring in 2011. He served as an assistant coach at San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn before being hired by the Celtics in June 2021.
The Celtics went 51-31 last season and reached the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in Udoka’s rookie head coaching campaign.
Udoka knows Toronto Raptors president Masai Uriji but decided against seeking that job after the firing of Nick Nurse on Friday, ESPN reported, saying the Rockets sold Udoka on a young roster of talent, a huge amount of money to spend under the NBA salary cap and the team’s high chance at winning next month’s NBA Draft Lottery.
Taking the top pick from the lottery would put the Rockets in position to select French big man Victor Wembanyama, seen as one of the top prospects since LeBron James.
The club will be trying to avoid suffering a fourth straight losing campaign next season, a drought it hasn’t suffered since beginning its existence with seven in a row from 1967-74.
Udoka, who is of Nigerian and American descent, was an assistant coach on the 2014 San Antonio Spurs NBA championship club and on the staff of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for the Tokyo Olympic champion US squad.