The Houston Rockets are hiring Ime Udoka as their next head coach, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Udoka coached the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals during the 2021-22 season, his first as a head coach. However, he was suspended for the season by the Celtics due to an alleged inappropriate, consensual relationship with another team employee. The Celtics promoted Joe Mazzulla to interim head coach, and removed the interim tag during the season, making Mazzulla their permanent coach.
Udoka negotiated with the Brooklyn Nets earlier this season after they fired Steve Nash as their coach. The Celtics were reportedly willing to let Udoka sign with the Nets, but they ultimately chose to promote assistant Jacque Vaughn.
Houston had been coached by Stephen Silas for the past three seasons. When the Rockets initially hired him in the 2020 offseason, it was with the expectation he would be coaching James Harden and a win-now roster. Instead, Harden asked for a trade and the Rockets fell to the bottom of the league. Houston had the NBA's worst record in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. They rose to the third-worst record in the league this season, but still managed to win only 22 games. Silas was fired soon after the season ended.
All reports seem to indicate that Houston's preference would be to start winning again in the near future. They no longer have much incentive to lose as the Oklahoma City Thunder control their first-round picks in the 2024, 2025 and 2026 NBA Drafts. Rumors have linked Houston to Harden in a possible offseason reunion, and the Rockets have amassed so much future draft capital that they could credibly trade for multiple high-impact veterans this offseason if they want to.
With Udoka in place, the Rockets have landed a proven winner to help lead their turnaround effort. The roster still has a number of question marks, but Houston has found its head coach moving forward.