Mike Woodson is the coach who will put the Indiana back in Indiana Basketball

The Indiana Family is whole again with Mike Woodson as its leader.

Mike Woodson stood at the podium, told the truth, and Indiana became Indiana again.

That wouldn’t be enough at most universities as they introduce a new basketball coach, and it wasn’t enough at Indiana the last two times it’s gone through a regime change.  IU needed the fight song, allusions to previous and future banners, and guarantees of future success.  Minus all the pomp and circumstance yesterday, the unveiling was addition by subtraction; and it was glorious.

For so long it seemed Indiana was ashamed of its past, afraid to embrace what it was under Bob Knight, as though the national media has been correct in defining his 29 years in Bloomington with a chair, choke, and Chung interview misstep.  More important in evaluating Knight than the oft recited lowlights are the young men who graduated from his program into adulthood with lessons he instilled through relentless repetition and reinforcement.

Woodson is one of those young men, and his return to Bloomington felt right yesterday.  Explaining what that means to people unacquainted with the Hoosiers for all or part of the Knight era from 1971-2000 is difficult.  It’s like driving back to your hometown after moving away.  All of a sudden, things just click back into their rightful order.

After a generation of being sold and then sold again by charlatans who could have just as easily become mortgage brokers (no offense to mortgage brokers) as basketball coaches, Indiana came back to its roots of nonsense-free honesty from a man who would rather teach basketball than sell his message to the media.

The last two hires were announced with great fanfare and tremendous enthusiasm.  Yesterday’s Zoom meeting held in Assembly Hall’s media room was without fans, a pep band, a promise of banners, or even media.  Woodson was joined by members of his family, AD Scott Dolson, Thad Matta, Quinn Buckner, Scott May, and members of the late Wayne Radford’s family.  That was it – simple and sublime, just like the state, university and program.

Woodson said he’s come back to Indiana to teach young men the game of basketball, prepare them for adulthood, and win some games.  He’ll do that through holding them accountable and with a staff that might be the most experienced in the history of college basketball if Larry Brown joins.

Between Woodson, Matta, and Brown, Indiana players will have access to a century of championship level basketball coaching experience.  And that’s without any of the three assistant coaches allowed by the NCAA.

That staff is not only experienced and smart, they enjoy collaborating without tremendous ego.  That was the most apparent takeaway about Woodson yesterday – he has a rare humility for the position of basketball coach at Indiana University.  Not that he lacks confidence; he doesn’t.  What he lacks is arrogance, which is often driven by insecurity.  There was no hint of arrogance in the thoughts Woodson shared yesterday.  Coaches are there for the players, according to Woodson, not the other way around, despite previous evidence to the contrary in Bloomington.

Woodson is there to help – and be helped.  He never mentioned a specific win total, number of Big 10 championships, or banners to be hung.  Woodson knows it’s about process – recruiting high-character talent, instituting a minute by minute approach to extracting the highest level of work a student-athlete can muster, and then scheming to put them in the best position to win each possession.

Yesterday, Indiana took a major step toward a future that has a tantalizing chance to be successful with a product of its past leading the way.

After years and years of square pegs trying to change the size and shape of their program, Indiana finally found a fit.  And Indiana felt like Indiana again.

5 thoughts on “Mike Woodson is the coach who will put the Indiana back in Indiana Basketball

  1. Bear

    Your comments about Knight are so transparent. It’s clear that you hate this guy. It seems to me that you cringe each time that you have to acknowledge that he was a great coach. He put IU on the basketball map, won multiple B10 championships, 3 National Championship, taught his players how to act on and off the court, and was a force that contributed millions of dollars to IU. Yet, you continuously have to highlight the negatives. I bet that you were cowering as Woodson started off his press conference with a tribute to Knight.

    In my recollection, there was only one person on Earth that lived a perfect life. It was not you or anyone at IU.

    1. Mark Janicki

      Did we read the same article? What comments “about Knight” did he make? Hunch, didn’t see it!

  2. Smitty

    Sorry, but I disagree that Indiana University needs anything from the Knight era. That time was then and it is over and has been for two decades. Only a small handful of diehards refuse to look forward to the future. Most people realize that any team or coach is merely temporary — the school continues on with new players and new coaches. Fans still cheer for “their” team not the personalities that happen to be on the sideline during any particular year. If IU basketball is all about Knight, then the school should just shut down the program.

    I wish no ill will towards Mike Woodson but I doubt he will last long at IU. First, professional basketball and college basket are basically different sports. Second, the talent level in the pros in much higher than an average college program, so coaching will make a tremendous difference. He might be a good professional coach, but that might not mean much in college basketball. Third, recruiting is a non-stop job, one that Woodson has never done. A coach needs to win recruiting. Lastly, his age suggests that this position is not long term. College coaching is a very time intensive job that wears out many people decades younger than Woodson. Time will tell how this works out.

  3. Art Binhack

    As an alumni who graduated in 1977, I believe we should take what is good about the past and leave the rest (chairs being thrown…but those refs were AWFUL. Knight was almost justified.)
    And there is a lot of good from the past that will be beneficial for a of us in the moment and in the near future.
    I want IU players to go to classes, and graduate. (Before Knight and Digger@ Notre Dame this often did not happen). I want to recruit shooters. Woodie gives me hope because one of his first quotes was we need to recruit shooters. On layups: PLEASE USE THE BACKBOARD! The layup success rate will drastically increase if we use the backboard box. Shot fakes…develop several for yourself. 1,000 Free Throws every day. Maybe this should be first. IU lost many games last few decades due to missed free throws. And this one is difficult, but slow down around the basket. I saw many rushed shots. If it gets blocked be ready for the rebound. I am cautiously optimistic about IU.


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