Sixers first time assistant this season Ime Udoka has been a hot candidate on the head coaching market. It was reported that the former Spurs assistant of seven years might be a “front-runner” for the Chicago Bulls vacancy, should new VP of B-Ball ops, Artūras Karnišovas opt for a coaching change. This perhaps in part because former Sixers’ Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley is now the new GM in Chicago and knows Udoka well. The Knicks entered the mix too and received permission to interview Udoka, who is considered to largely spearhead the Sixers defense, ranked 6th overall in the NBA.
Losing Udoka would be something that some fans are dreading for several reasons. Some value his acumen and experience on the bench and don’t want him to go take a head-coaching job, especially if a continued interview process kept him off the bench for parts of the upcoming playoffs.
Others may see him as a potential replacement for Brett Brown should Brown not be brought back for the 2021 season:
Have this terrible feeling we will regret Udoka leaving if he does.— Spike Eskin (@SpikeEskin) June 19, 2020
While reports out of New York are that Knicks’ new President Leon Rose would like to hire his former CAA client, Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks are at least putting on a big show of interviewing lots (11) of candidates first; something they did before hiring David Fizdale back in 2018 as well.
So do the Knicks really want Udoka or are they just posturing?
Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks may not have handed the reigns to Thibs just yet because they’re busy getting a “crash course” in ‘The Spurs Way’” by interviewing some former Spurs Assistants.
“If this extended coaching search Knicks president Leon Rose and William Wesley have embarked on still leads to Tom Thibodeau being hired, the rest of the interviews won’t have been a waste of Zoom time.
At least Rose and Wesley, who have never worked for an NBA team, got a crash course in “The Spurs Way.”
“Part of Rose’s strategy of interviewing 11 candidates - including five without head-coaching experience - is to hear philosophies of other organizations, according to an NBA Source.”
Hmm.... the cynic in me here wants to offer an alternative headline “Knicks think they can learn ‘The spurs Way’ in a couple Zoom interviews before settling on Thibs!”
The Post adds that the Knicks have also interviewed Spurs Assistant Will Hardy and that part of the reason Udoka came to Philadelphia in the first place was because Becky Hammond is regarded as the heir apparent to the legendary Gregg Popovich, whose the biggest reason everyone wants the “Spurs Way” in the first place. That includes your Sixers who found Brown from the San Antonio coaching tree seven years ago.
So is there actually a decent chance Udoka stays in Philly?
Udoka seems like a really great voice to have around.
“Udoka assimilated with the Pop philosophy, one NBA executive who is close to Udoka told The Post. “Udoka is a person very driven, meticulous, hard on himself. He’s a perfectionist.”
It even sounds from the piece like Udoka may have a tremendous connection with the team’s emotional leader Tobias Harris. Per Berman:
“Torrel Harris, the agent for and father of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, has been most impressed with Udoka, a former Knick....
“He’s great guy, good coach,’’ Harris told The Post. “He would be a great coach for the Knicks. All players love him. He gets the players respect. The Knicks should definitely hire him.’’
Tobias’ dad stanning for Ime to get the job in New York to reporters has my mind racing. Does Torrel Harris think that Brett Brown, who is at least rumored to be on a hot seat, isn’t going to be fired? Does he think that even if Brown were to be fired the team wouldn’t tap Udoka? Because surely if you loved Udoka that much, and thought there was even a chance Brown was fired you’d want Udoka to be your son’s next coach, right? Or has he not considered much of this and was just being honest about a guy he really respects and would love to see get a head coaching gig? Or does he actually not want Udoka around and wants him on a rival? [Mind blown emoji].
Clearly I’m over thinking this completely because there isn’t much actual basketball news...sigh.
I’d like Brett Brown to get a real chance here to have a great playoffs and stick around. But if the Sixers did flame out in round one of the playoffs and he had to be axed, Udoka seems like a natural successor.
Don’t get your hopes up too high here for Udoka to stick around
While there are these weird rumors that the Bulls could keep unpopular Head Coach Jim Boylen (another Spurs disciple) because they simply don’t want to pay two coaches next year, that doesn’t seem likely. The Bulls beat has reported for a while now that Boylen’s fate has been sealed, and there is simply incentive to make a big public production over giving him in-person consideration before showing him the door; to make up for the way the organization has treated other coaches like Phil Jackson and Tom Thibodeau in the past.
The new front office making it look like they’ve realllly considered keeping Boylen, before ultimately hiring Udoka as the next head coach in Chicago would tic tons of boxes for the Bulls.
Hopefully Chicago doesn’t see the Knicks as serious threats to take their “front-runner” and both the Knicks and Bulls each continue with their respective coaching ruses long enough for Udoka to lead the Sixers defense to a title.