NBA Insiders who pushed Udoka uncritically have questions to answer
It was reported with near-certainty the Nets were going to hire Ime Udoka as their next head coach. But on Wednesday, we found out that won’t happen.
Once again, NBA Insiders pushed Udoka uncritically. What’s going on here?
The Nets announced Wednesday they’ve removed the interim tag from Jacque Vaughn, signaling it will be his team for at least the rest of the season. It’s the latest surprise chapter in a staggering story that continues to only become more opaque.
Last week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Nets were close to hiring Udoka. Charania said Brooklyn “plans to hire” him, while Wojnarowski wrote Udoka was the “likely next” head coach of the Nets.
Then we waited. And waited. Late Sunday night, longtime NBA Insider Marc Stein, who now writes his own Substack, reported there were “strong voices” urging Nets owner Joe Tsai to back off Udoka.
But there were no follow-up reports. Woj and Shams were silent.
Woj’s writeup on the Nets’ interest in Udoka made it seem like they already completed their internal investigation —or were close. “The Nets have been vetting the circumstances around Udoka's suspension and believe he can tighten up the league's 29th-ranked defensive team and command leadership in a difficult locker room,” he wrote.
There was no mention of concerns over Udoka’s conduct with the Celtics, which was apparently egregious enough to warrant a one-season suspension.
While Wojnarowski’s wording is cautious, the article’s lede says the Nets are “finalizing” a deal with Udoka. The word “finalizing” usually indicates talks are in their final stages.
Maybe they were, and the Nets stopped short at the last moment. Charania’s story Wednesday says the Nets deviated from their plans due to multiple factors: their investigation into Udoka taking longer than expected, backlash to the reported hiring and questions about the team’s ability to contend.
Curiously, Charania doesn’t list Udoka’s suspendible actions as one of Brooklyn’s concerns. The length of the organization’s investigation would seemingly be less relevant than its findings, right?
Boston's findings were: Udoka engaged in an improper romantic relationship with a female subordinate, and made “unwanted comments,” Charania reported at the time.
Did Brooklyn uncover more?
Allowing for the possibility that information changes quickly, it’s bizarre that NBA Insiders and analysts have championed Udoka’s return ever since the suspension was announced. When Wojnarowski first broke the news Sept. 22, he simultaneously pumped up Udoka on SportsCenter.
“There’s no assurance and Ime Udoka was not given any assurance that he would ever coach the Celtics again. But what it does open up the door for — and certainly in talking to some other organizations today — he may become a candidate or a coach of interest for other jobs that might open, or might become open during the season, or certainly next season,” said Woj. “The final chapter of Udoka’s coaching career has not been written. This is not going to be a death knell for him. It could be the end in Boston. But this is a coach who made an incredible impression on people.”
At the time, Udoka’s actions were a mystery. Yet, Wojnarowski assured viewers that Udoka would coach again — perhaps this season.
The following morning, Wojnarowski reported Udoka’s relationship with the woman was “consensual.” Then Stephen A. Smith ran with that questionable description.
A couple of weeks ago, Smith theorized the Celtics didn’t fire Udoka outright, because they’re afraid of the Nets poaching him. Jeff Van Gundy provided a character testimonial for Udoka during an ESPN Celtics broadcast.
As recently as Friday, Jalen Rose was wondering why the woman, who we know was Udoka’s subordinate, hasn't been publicly named (Rose apologized in a hostage cam-like video shortly thereafter).
Most of ESPN’s NBA voices have taken an apparent pro-Udoka stance. Last week, Brian Windhorst, another well-respected Insider, actually suggested Udoka should turn down the Nets.
“In a vacuum, Ime Udoka shouldn’t take this job,” said Windhorst. “Any coach who has a solid resume and would have options shouldn’t take this job.”
Of course, Udoka does not exist in a vacuum; but rather the real world, where he’s sitting in professional purgatory. Udoka was lucky the Nets were ready to rescue him. But apparently, a suspended and disgraced head coach holds all the cards.
At least in ESPN’s universe.
Bruins are liars: The statement issued Wednesday by Isaiah Meyer-Crothers is heartbreaking. In it, he details how Mitchell Miller tortured him for years, from first grade all the way through high school.
Meyer-Crothers’ account confirms once and for all the Bruins misrepresented Mitchell’s past. They acted like he was responsible for one incident: an ugly episode in which he forced Meyer-Crothers to lick a lollipop he smeared all over a urinal. Mitchell’s animalistic behavior brought him to juvenile court.
When the Bruins signed Mitchell, they released a statement indicating that was the only time he ever tormented Meyer-Crothers. “When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely,” said Miller. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual.”
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Mitchell didn’t make one “extremely poor decision.” Dehumanizing Meyer-Crothers, who’s Black and developmentally disabled, was a hallmark of his adolescence.
Oh, and he only reached out to Meyer-Crothers last week, on Instagram. Some apology.
The Bruins were happy to help Mitchell whitewash his gruesome past. Gross.
Still, there’s Mitchell hypocrisy: Miller is undeserving of a second chance right now, because he’s failed to express remorse for his actions.
But neither has Tyreek Hill, who choked out his pregnant girlfriend in college and was investigated for child abuse. Yet, there’s no outrage when his highlights are shown every Sunday.
Or how about Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, who was arrested for an array of infractions in college, including domestic battery?
It’s always interesting to see which stories ignite widespread outrage, and which ones don’t.
Amazon antisemitism: Kyrie Irving was rightfully pilloried for promoting an antisemitic movie on his Twitter feed.
Now do Jeff Bezos!
Kyrie found the film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” on Amazon. The platform is still selling the movie today.
Irving promoted the movie to his 4.6 million Twitter followers; Amazon promotes the movie to its millions of customers daily.
Where’s the apology, Jeff?