Ime Udoka has found a new coaching home. The Houston Rockets hired the 45-year-old after his one-year suspension from the Boston Celtics.
“Rockets and Udoka moved fairly quickly toward each other after initial meeting,” ESPN Senior Insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted on Monday (April 24). “Udoka and GM Rafael Stone kept talking on job. Both sides had some strong options in the marketplace but a deal got done in the last 24 hours to land Udoka with the Rockets. Young talent, cap space and a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick were part of a strong case to lure Udoka.”
This is a controversial hiring, given Udoka’s perception in the NBA following his dismissal from the Boston Celtics. Back in September 2022, Udoka was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with someone on the Celtics staff. While the relationship was believed to be consensual, the employee revealed that Udoka made “unwanted comments” toward her following their affair, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported.
This was inopportune timing for Udoka, who had just led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in 2022. He was replaced by Boston Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla, who was officially named head coach in February 2023.
Another aspect of Udoka’s scandal was his public longtime relationship with actress Nia Long. They began dating in 2009, got engaged in 2015, and had a 10-year-old son, Kez, together before breaking up in December 2022.
“I think the most heartbreaking thing about all of this was seeing my son’s face when the Boston Celtics organization decided to make a very private situation public,” Long told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was devastating, and it still is. He still has moments where it’s not easy for him. If you’re in the business of protecting women — I’m sorry, no one from the Celtics organization has even called to see if I’m OK, to see if my children are OK. It’s very disappointing.”