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Ime Udoka, former JAV player and Boston Celtics head coach in the NBA Finals

Ime Udoka embodied the hope of an entire region when he signed for JA Vichy in March 2005 from Gran Canaria (Spain). The Bourbonnais club, then struggling to maintain and in very bad shape, called on the then 28-year-old winger.

His passage was lightning, but striking in the Allier. Nine games: 24.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists on average. Incredible statistics in vain, since JAV will be relegated to Pro B at the end of the season, notably weighed down by an 85-91 defeat at Stade Clermontois, in the Auvergne derby.

First season as head coach

Position 2 then returned to the United States, near his birthplace, Portland (Oregon), for a freelance at the Blazers off the bench, before heading to the San Antonio Spurs, or even the Sacramento Kings.

It is also in Texas, with the Spurs, that the naturalized Nigerian began his retraining as assistant coach of the legendary Gregg Popovich. A successful first freelance, with an NBA title in 2014, the last of the franchise.

Ime Udoka in the derby against Stade Clermontois (85-91 defeat)

Inevitably, his name began to circulate as the main coach across the Atlantic. However, he remained for several years in this role of right-hand man, at the Philadelphia 76ers then at the Brooklyn Nets under the aegis of Steve Nash (MVP 2005 and 2006). Before turning the corner this season, signing as a “head coach” (head coach) with the Boston Celtics, a franchise steeped in history with 17 NBA championship titles.

After a complicated start to the season with the C’s, Ime Udoka and his players have chained victories, 26 out of the last 32 meetings of the regular phase, to finish second in the Eastern Conference (51 wins, 31 losses). In the first round of the playoffs, they extinguished the Nets of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in four games and an unexpected “sweep” (4-0).

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Pro B: JAV cracks in the last quarter against Blois (89-79), in the semi-final first leg

In the conference semi-finals, they took out the defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Game 7 separated the two teams, won by Boston, which was trailing 3-2 in this series.

This Sunday evening, Ime Udoka and the Celtics eliminated the Miami Heat in the decisive game, thanks to a 100-96 victory, despite an excellent Jimmy Butler (36 points, 9 rebounds).

The first NBA coach of African origin will challenge the Golden States Warriors in the NBA Finals, with the ambition of being crowned champion in his first season as head coach. First meeting in the night from Thursday to Friday, at 3 am (French time).

Jason Cotard

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