Celtics coach Ime Udoka had seven productive seasons as an assistant with the Spurs, but all along he sensed that to take the next step in his career it would be important to have a change of scenery. It would be valuable to be around new players, new coaches and new schemes.
So in 2019-20, Udoka joined the 76ers staff of coach Brett Brown, who was previously an assistant with San Antonio, too.
“That [Spurs] system kind of ran itself,” Udoka said Wednesday, before Boston faced Philadelphia. “So for me, that was the step I needed and progression to get away and see some different philosophies, be around different players. It was a good year overall . . .For me it was invaluable just getting into different programs. The day-to-day things, some of the foundation that was shaped in San Antonio, it was a way to see some things outside the box that I hadn’t done in a while. That was well worth it. It was as valuable as the seven years in San Antonio.”
The 76ers were ultimately swept in the first round of the playoffs in the Orlando bubble by the Celtics, and Brown was fired at season’s end. Udoka then latched on with the Nets, where he worked as an assistant for one year before being hired by Boston last summer. But Udoka said his stop in Philadelphia was an important steppingstone.
“Obviously being around Joel [Embiid] and Ben [Simmons] and those guys and learning some different players, as well as the relationships with Josh [Richardson] and Al [Horford] that I have now,” Udoka said. “I think all of that was helpful for me, specifically moving forward.”
Robert Williams returns to lineup
Celtics center Robert Williams returned to face Philadelphia after missing three games because of a non-COVID illness.
“I was down bad, man,” Williams said. “The flu had me. I was actually kind of hurt. But I’m just happy to be back. Glad to be back.”
Williams finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, including a game-clinching swat of a Georges Niang 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“What we’re doing is just trying to get some continuity back with our guys,” coach Udoka said.
Jaylen Brown remains slightly limited after being sidelined with a hamstring strain, and Udoka said his minutes restriction has been raised to 32 minutes. Brown had 9 points on 3-for-11 shooting in 33 minutes vs. the 76ers.
A familiar face on opposing bench
Longtime Celtics assistant Jamie Young returned to TD Garden on Wednesday as a member of the 76ers’ coaching staff under Doc Rivers. Young was one of the longest-tenured coaches in Celtics history. He joined the staff as a video coordinator in 2001 and worked as an assistant under Jim O’Brien, Rivers and Brad Stevens. He was a member of Stevens’s staff last season, but was not retained by Udoka.