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Reports: Ime Udoka emerges as favorite for Celtics head coaching job

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Ime Udoka, who was Steve Nash’s defensive coach this season, has emerged as the leading candidate for the open Boston Celtics head coaching job, according to various reports.

Marc Stein of the Times reported in his weekly newsletter Tuesday that Udoka is the front-runner...

Ime Udoka, an assistant coach with the Nets, is believed to be at the top of Boston’s list to replace Stevens on the Celtics’ bench.

Similarly, Clevis Murray of The Athletic reports that there’s “growing confidence” that Udoka will get what could be the most coveted of the NBA’s seven head coaching vacancies.

Brandon “Scoop” Robinson of Bally Sports has also reported on the possibility...

On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Udoka was among the candidates getting second interviews with Boston’s president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, who was promoted from head coach earlier in the month, creating the vacancy. At the time, Woj noted that key Celtics players liked the idea.

Udoka has received strong reviews from Celtics players who played for the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, sources said. Udoka was an assistant under national coach Gregg Popovich. Udoka joined Steve Nash’s staff this year after one season with the Sixers and seven years under Popovich with the Spurs.

According to earlier reports, Udoka’s main competition was Chauncey Billups the Pistons great who played briefly for the Celtics. Billups is currently an assistant coach with the Clippers. Darvin Ham, the Bucks’ assistant, was also mentioned but by Tuesday, it appeared, Udoka had moved ahead of both.

Udoka is one of three assistants the Nets fear they could lose this summer. The others are Jacque Vaughn, who’s about to get his first interview with the Pelicans and Mike D’Antoni, who has already been interviewed by the Blazers once and will soon be interviewed a second time, per Woj.

The Nets had eight assistants last season under Steve Nash, with Vaughn as the lead assistant, Udoka responsible for the defense and D’Antoni for the offense. D’Antoni, of course, has prior head coaching experience and has twice been named NBA Coach of the Year. Vaughn, too, has head coaching experience with the Orlando Magic. Udoka would be a rookie head coach if hired by Boston.