Ime Udoka, right, shown talking with Ben Simmons when he was a 76ers assistant coach, will be the new coach of the Boston Celtics, according to multiple reports. Chris Szagola/Associated Press

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have hired Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka to be their new coach, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.

The hiring was first reported by ESPN.

Udoka, 43, played a total of 316 games over seven seasons with five NBA teams before retiring in 2012 and joining Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio as an assistant coach. He was with the Spurs for seven seasons, including in 2013-14, when they won the NBA title.

Udoka joined the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019 and was with the Nets this season.

Udoka takes over a Celtics team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in three of the previous four seasons before plummeting to the No. 7 seed this year and losing in the first round to Brooklyn. After the five-game loss to the Nets, basketball boss Danny Ainge retired and Brad Stevens gave up his spot as head coach to replace him.

Once primed to compete for a spot in the finals, the Celtics seem to be losing ground in the East. Although Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have emerged as stars, the team has struggled to find additional pieces that can challenge the assembled stars in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and now Brooklyn and Atlanta.

Stevens’ first major move since taking over the front office was to trade injured point guard Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City for big man Al Horford, giving up the team’s first-round draft pick to save salary cap space.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com was first to report that the Celtics had chosen Udoka, noting that he had separated himself during the search process and had the support of several Celtics players who played under him at the 2019 World Cup.

Udoka was among a group of external assistant coaches who received a second interview for the position in the past week, a list that included Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Bucks assistant Darlin Ham.

Udoka was an assistant on the USA Basketball squad that played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, which included Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart. The trio reportedly raved about Udoka during the search process.

Stevens said Monday he wouldn’t get into specifics about the coaching search, and added that he won’t interfere with how the new coach wants to run the team on the court.

“The one thing I should be good at is supporting the head coach and not being involved,” Stevens said. “My door’s open, but I do not want to be anything but supportive.”

And Stevens has a plan already in place for how he can accomplish that right away with Udoka.

“I’ve told everybody that I’ve talked to in a weird way, in kind of a messed-up way, I’m looking forward to the first time we lose and I can walk in there, put my arm around him and say, ‘I’ve lost a ton here. Let’s go get a coffee. Let’s go grab a beer. It’s OK. It’s part of a long journey,’” Stevens said. “I think I’m looking forward to that, just being a support.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Daily Headlines

  • Sign up and get the top stories to begin the day delivered to your inbox at 6 a.m.