Raptors miss on Ime Udoka as Rockets hire ex-Celtics coach

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After the Toronto Raptors decided to fire Nick Nurse, former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was regarded as the natural replacement. In the last few days, it seemed like Udoka going to Toronto and Nurse joining the Houston Rockets was essentially a formality.

Udoka, who hasn’t coached a game since last season following his dismissal on the basis of an improper workplace relationship, got to the NBA Finals in his first season with Boston. For a Raptors team trying to win now, hiring Udoka seemed like the best way to sustain the success.

What seemed like a lock for weeks has since been turned upside down, as Houston went into a different direction. Rather than bring Nurse into the fold, the Rockets decided to steal one of the hottest names on the market right out from under Toronto’s noses.

Udoka has been named the next head coach of the Houston Rockets, which means that anyone imagining him as the guy who will lead the Raptors back to the promised land can put those dreams to rest.

Toronto Raptors head coach target Ime Udoka hired by Rockets.

Perhaps more interestingly, Nick Nurse’s rumored landing spot has been ripped away from him. After weeks of rumors connecting Nurse to the Rockets, it appears as though Nurse might be running out of options for the 2023-24 season barring another vacancy opening up.

Udoka’s basketball resume is impressive, as he spent a decade as an assistant coach for the Spurs, 76ers, and Nets before being given the Boston job. All of that success, however, won’t be enough to completely erase the stench of what he did behind the scenes away from prospective teams. Houston, it seems, was undeterred by the bad press.

Assistant Adrian Griffin was the only other name that was given a better than +600 chance of succeeding Nurse, so he will likely end up as the favorite to be the next head coach. Suns assistant Patrick Mutombo and Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse both have connections to the organization that can’t be ignored.

The Raptors now have to figure out who their No. 2 choice is and go after them as hard as possible. While missing out on the PR troubles that would have come with hiring Udoka might be seen as a silver lining by some, it’s tough to see someone that the organization clearly identified as their best option spurn them for a rebuilding team.

Next. 10 replacements for Nick Nurse as Raptors coach. dark