Do coaches get the credit that they deserve in the NBA? The players rightly earn their place in the spotlight as they win games on the court. Away from the action, the coaches are responsible for the tactics that get those franchise teams over the line.
There is one way in which NBA coaches are recognised for their work. Betting markets are in place for the coach of the year and it’s one of the more active futures bets attached to basketball.
Out in Front
According to those markets, the man to beat this year is Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics. Current betting shows Udoka at odds of 15/2 and that leaves a gap to Chris Finch of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The list of other coaches among the chasing pack includes Erik Spoelstra, Jason Kidd and Tyronn Lue. There are some strong challengers, but why does Udoka enjoy that lead at the very top?
The Team to Beat
One of the more obvious reasons why Ime Udoka is the favourite for coach of the year lies in the team that he is there to guide. The Boston Celtics have won more NBA championships than anyone else and they are favourites to add an 18th title in 2023.
It would naturally follow that the coach of the year is behind a team that goes deep into the competition. They may not need to win the pennant but they would need to reach the Conference finals as a bare minimum.
Ime Udoka is at the helm of a winning team and that’s a big reason behind his position at the top of those markets.
Early NBA Days
As a player, Ime Udoka enjoyed an 11-year career and he appeared for different NBA franchises in that time. Playing as a Small Forward, he spent time at the LA Lakers, the New York Knicks, the Portland Trailblazers and the Sacramento Kings.
His playing career was a modest one: Udoka did not win an NBA Championship and he failed to figure in any all-star teams. Recognition at B Level is all he had to show on his CV.
History tells us that the best players do not always make for good coaches, so how has Ime Udoka fared since switching to courtside?
Udoka’s Rise to the Top
Ime Udoka has been in charge of the Boston Celtics since 2021. This is his first full-time coaching role, but he has recorded a good success rate as an assistant. He began his career away from the court with the San Antonio Spurs. As their assistant coach, he helped guide the franchise to the NBA Championship in 2014.
Udoka was with the Spurs from 2012 to 2019 before leaving to take up a similar role with the Philadelphia 76ers. After just one season at the Wells Fargo Center, he switched to the Brooklyn Nets.
At that time, the Nets were among the favourites for the NBA pennant. Ime Udoka played an important role in their development, but the offer of a full time position at the Celtics was too much to turn down.
As a full time coach, Udoka guided that Celtics team to the NBA Championships in 2022. Ultimately, they lost out in the final stages but a 4-2 loss to a resurgent Golden State Warriors side is certainly no disgrace.
It was a promising first season in charge and that impressive return is one of the reasons why Ime Udoka is favorite to pick up that Coach of the Year accolade.
Leading an Impressive Turnaround
Ime Udoka’s coaching record is a respectable one but he is still fairly new in the role. He has some obvious qualities, but his early showings with the Celtics tell us why so much is expected of him in 2022/23.
It all started slowly for the team and their new coach. After 39 games of the regular season, Boston had an 18-21 record and were in danger of missing out on the playoffs. As Udoka settled into his new role, the Celtics turned it around and finished on top of the Eastern Conference Atlantic division with a record of 51-31.
That remarkable turnaround is another endorsement of Udoka’s credentials. With another full season in charge, it seems reasonable to suspect that Boston can go one better. Ime Udoka is clearly an impressive coach but how does he do it?
No Shying Away
It’s obvious that the Boston Celtics’ coach likes to make his presence known at the side of the court. The closing report at the end of the 2021/22 season revealed that he was far more vocal on the sidelines than his predecessor Brad Stevens.
Celtics’ Point Guard Marcus Smart may have won the defensive player of the year award, but he revealed that Udoka was always shouting from the sidelines and encouraging him to improve. Some players would resent that support but this is a tight Boston unit and they clearly responded to their coach.
It’s early days in his coaching career but, to an extent, Ime Udoka’s record speaks for itself. After a slow start, he turned this Boston side into serious contenders for their first NBA Championship since 2008.
In 2022, the team has a chance to go one better and, with the inspirational Udoka behind them, they can also help their coach win his own individual accolade.