Sunday, February 19, 2023

Jayson Tatum still keeps in contact with Ime Udoka, says he was 'probably' his favorite coach

On Thursday, the Celtics officially made Joe Mazzulla the franchise's 19th head coach, removing the interim tag and cutting ties with Ime Udoka.

While Udoka is currently serving a season-long suspension for breaking the team's code of conduct, it doesn't mean any of his former players have severed their relationship with the now ex-Celtics coach.

Jayson Tatum revealed Saturday that despite being on board and proud of Mazzulla becoming the Celtics head coach, the veteran forward has kept in contact with Udoka over the past five months since being suspended for the entire 2022-23 campaign.
"He's somebody that I've talked to throughout the season, just periodically checking in," Tatum said of his relationship with Udoka during Saturday's NBA All-Star Media Day.
Tatum, who finished tied for fourth in his second 3-point contest participation later on All-Star Saturday night, says that despite being the Celtics coach for just one season -- which resulted in a trip to the NBA Finals -- Udoka left a lasting impression on the All-Star.
"Whatever happened happened, and that doesn't have anything to do with me," Tatum said. "But I can't take away the relationship that me and him had and the impact that he had on me in that one season."
Udoka's impact led Tatum to admit that he may be one of if not his "favorite coach."
"I love Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski]. I love Brad [Stevens]. I love Joe. I love all those guys, but there was just a different kind of relationship I had with Ime," Tatum explained. "[He was] probably like, my most favorite coach I've ever had.

"And that's not a knock on anybody. I've got a great relationship with Joe. I love everything that he's doing. I'm extremely happy for him. Brad helped me navigate through the NBA when I was 19 and he kind of helped he grow and put me in the right spots.

"So, I have different perspectives and respect for each coach that I've had -- just different times in my life."
Tatum didn't detail about any conversations he and Udoka have had throughout the course of the season.
"Nothing crazy, just checking in," Tatum said. "He's been telling me he's watching me play and to keep up the good work and things like that."
The Celtics (42-17) have owned the league's best record essentially all year, something that Tatum spoke about in a December interview with The Ahtletic  by saying, "Ime deserves as much credit as anybody," for laying a foundation when they reached the Finals a season ago.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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