Boston Celtics first-year head coach Ime Udoka expects Marcus Smart to be the team’s primary ball-handler this season. As the longest-tenured player on the team, Smart has the most chemistry with the core group of the Celtics, which is invaluable for a point guard to have. Playing in a different role last season, Smart led the team averaging 5.7 assists per game, paving the way for his newfound role this season.
Coach Udoka brought in a small handful of great coaches when he accepted the job in Boston, some even being former players. Mostly coming from his roots with the San Antonio Spurs, Udoka hired his former teammates and colleagues he’s connected with throughout his career as both a player and assistant coach.
The Boston Celtics envision Marcus Smart becoming their full-time point guard this season and assistant coach Damon Stoudamire is going to help bridge that gap with Smart.
In doing so, Udoka has paired Smart to work with assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, a former point guard who was selected seventh overall in 1995 and won Rookie of the Year before producing a successful 14-year NBA career. During his heyday, Stoudamire was an assist machine, averaging over eight per game throughout his first four seasons in the NBA.
Without any hesitation, Udoka knew Stoudamire would be the best fit to work with Smart.
"“It’s just good to have an ex-point guard in that position. And with Marcus taking on more responsibility, having a guy that’s been there and done that and he can look to for advice, I think that’s invaluable.” – Ime Udoka, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com"
Stoudamire, a standout player in his glory days, is an excellent coach and mentor. He was awarded the Ben Jobe Award and was named WCC Coach of the Year last season. The Ben Jobe Award is given to the best minority coach in NCAA Division I basketball. Stoudamire is looking forward to working with Smart and believes he can help him elevate his game to the next level.
"“I really believe that Marcus has a ceiling that he hasn’t reached yet, and now it’s just a matter of getting him there. I’m excited to be working with him. I’m excited for his opportunity as the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics, and I’ll do anything possible to help him reach and attain the level that he wants to, even if that means being a bad cop at times.” – Damon Stoudamire, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com"
Assigning an assistant coach to work with a player is common practice in the NBA. In the past, Smart was assigned to work with former Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson, who was a former guard in the WNBA and became an All-Star and champion. In their time working together, Smart became a better shooter and posted career highs; he even set the Boston Celtics franchise record for the most 3-pointers made in a game (11).
Needless to say, we’ve seen Smart work with and focus one-on-one with coaches in the past. In doing so, the work has proved to be successful while the production is much more consistent in a way that can benefit the team in more ways than not. Smart is looking forward to working with and learning from Stoudamire.
"“He’s a great coach. Obviously we know him as a really great player, and so to be able to have that type of experience from when he played and now bring it to the coaching side, to be able to really hand down that wisdom and knowledge to me is really good. So it’s been great working with him.” – Marcus Smart, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com"
It’s worth mentioning that Stoudamire has worked with players similar to Smart in the past, including Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley. Stoudamire is a great coach and communicator with his players. In five seasons as the head coach of the University of the Pacific, Stoudamire tallied an overall coaching record of 148-71.
It took about halfway through the 2019-20 season before we saw the positive effects of Smart working with Lawson on his shooting. Now with Stoudamire, it’s going to be great to see Smart be able to form and hone all of his skills together to be what the Boston Celtics need of him as their starting point guard.