Indiana pulled its new head coach off an NBA bench — but no, it’s not Brad Stevens.
The Hoosiers announced Sunday that they had hired Knicks assistant coach Mike Woodson after firing Archie Miller earlier this month. Woodson and Indiana reached an agreement on a six-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Woodson hit the ground running, as he was already on his way to meet his players shortly after Indiana released its official announcement.
Mike Woodson tells me that he has landed in Indiana and is en route to Bloomington to meet with the team.
Woodson on being the head coach at Indiana: “It’s a dream come true.”
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 28, 2021
What can the 63-year-old bring to an Indiana program that has struggled to return to its former glory? Here are three big things to know about Woodson.
Mike Woodson has great history with Indiana
Woodson, an Indianapolis native, might as well have come right out of the movie “Hoosiers.” He was all-in on Indiana basketball from a young age.
“Every yard had courts, little basketball hoops in the yard,” Woodson told The New York Post in 2012. “If you didn’t have it, you had neighbors two doors down that had it. You had parks in every area of town where you could go get a pickup game. … You had to be able to pass, and shoot, and dribble, and play without the basketball, you know, the motion offense. That was Indiana basketball.
“And Bob Knight is the one who really instilled a lot of the fundamentals and how high school coaches taught their teams.”
He unsurprisingly went to Indiana and found great success under Knight’s tutelage, scoring more than 2,000 points from 1976-1980.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I could play, and where I knew I could get a great education, and my family didn’t have to travel far to see me. So it was perfect,” Woodson told The Post. “And I thought I was playing for the best coach in the country at that time.”
Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Knicks assistant Mike Woodson is finalizing a deal to become Indiana Head Coach.
Woodson is 1 of 5 2,000-point scorers in school history. pic.twitter.com/nmXsOLour7
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 28, 2021
Following his time at Indiana, Woodson went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA, spending time with the Knicks, Nets, Kings, Clippers, Rockets and Cavaliers.
Mike Woodson’s NBA coaching record requires some context
If you look at Woodson’s professional resume, the final number is not that impressive. As a head coach over six full seasons with the Hawks and two-plus seasons with the Knicks, Woodson compiled a 315-365 overall record (.463 winning percentage).
However, it’s important to note that Atlanta’s win total increased every single season under Woodson (13, 26, 30, 37, 47, 53), and he guided New York to a 54-28 record during the 2012-13 season, the last time the Knicks made a playoff appearance. Again, that’s 54 wins with James Dolan’s Knicks.
Was Woodson in the same conversation as the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Heat’s Erik Spoelstra? No, he had his flaws. His offenses could get stagnant and iso-heavy, and at times, he was hesitant to embrace modern basketball and analytics. (Zach Lowe wrote in a 2013 Grantland article that Woodson preferred “raw points allowed over possession-based stats”).
Still, the overall record doesn’t paint a full picture of Woodson’s time in the NBA. He deserves credit for turning around a depressing Hawks franchise and giving the Knicks something to celebrate.
Mike Woodson could use an experienced staff
The main concern with the Woodson hire is how he will handle the challenges of the college game, given he has no experience at that level. Recruiting in particular will be difficult.
It appears Indiana may be borrowing from the NBA model by giving Woodson a “general manager” in Thad Matta, the winningest coach in Ohio State history.
IU is hiring former Butler and Ohio State coach Thad Matta as associate AD for men’s basketball administration. Matta will assist an IU staff that will be led by new coach Mike Woodson.
— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) March 28, 2021
Matta can assist Woodson in putting together a staff capable of competing for top talent — and ensure Indiana won’t lose in-state recruits to Purdue and other Big Ten schools. Just look at Michigan coach Juwan Howard. He wisely kept Saddi Washington on board and added Phil Martelli and Howard Eisley to his staff. The Wolverines are feeling pretty good about Howard’s tenure so far.
Can Woodson match Howard’s success? That’s a high bar, but hiring experienced assistants would be a step in the right direction.