I won’t pretend to know a TON about Ime Udoka, the longtime Spurs assistant who will be replacing Monty Williams on Brett Brown’s staff, but on the surface, I’ll provide a few bulletpoints:
- Udoka played parts of seven seasons with five NBA teams.
- He worked alongside Gregg Popovich for seven years.
- He crossed paths with Brett Brown back in 2012, when both were working for San Antonio.
- He interviewed for the Cavaliers job, which went to John Beilein. (looks like he also was linked to the Pistons and Hornets gigs)
- Brett Brown’s philosophies obviously involve some concepts taken from the Popovich Spurs, so Udoka will have familiarity there.
Rich Hofmann at The Athletic says Udoka is going to handle defensive duties for the Sixers, whereas Williams focused on the offensive side of the ball as lead assistant. Udoka will be the third “defensive coordinator” for the club in three years, as Billy Lange and Lloyd Pierce took head coaching jobs with St. Joe’s and the Atlanta Hawks, respectively. Jim O’Brien handled defensive duties on a fill-in basis during the recent playoff run.
Brett likes to assign his assistants to these specific roles, so his second hire will handle the offensive side of the ball.
One question that I see popping up –
Why would Udoka come to Philly to work the same job under Brett Brown? Well, it’s not technically the same job, at least I don’t think so. Udoka will be Brown’s de facto #2 in Philly, while Ettore Messina I think was viewed as Pop’s lead in San Antonio. Seeing as two of Brown’s assistants have landed head coaching gigs in recent years, following suit and taking on a lead role probably gets Udoka closer to running his own team at some point in the future.
For what it’s worth, this is what Brett said about filling his vacant coaching positions during exit interviews a few weeks ago:
“We have as many, I suppose, as two positions to fill, in my eyes. Without getting into sort of the granular pieces of what those qualities need to look like, I know completely, sort of, the areas they will be responsible for. Most of you know that I set my NBA staff up like an NFL program. It’s very compartmentalized, in regards to special teams, and pieces of our offense and pieces of our defense. There are people responsible for “big man” coaches and perimeter people and so on. It’s very NFL-ish and it works for me to better organize it. As so as I search and try to find with Elton who’s going to be on the bench and what are we going to do behind the bench, there are skills, there are sort of ways people see the world “are you an offensive guy or defensive guy” type things that will factor into who we hire. As time unfolds, I think in the next month, we will be able to make a “who’s going to be replacing Monty” type thing as an example.”
Either way, defense needs to be a focus for the Sixers this season. Their defensive rating dropped from 103.8 (3rd in the NBA) to 108.9 (14th) in 2018-2019. That’s Udoka’s job moving forward, patching that up and getting the team to show more on the defensive end over the course of 82 games, because there were too many nights off in this department last year.