BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Kenya Hunter moved his family to Bloomington back in August, a time when assistant coaches weren't usually on the move. But he said everything happens for a reason.
But after Indiana fired Archie Miller – the coach who hired Hunter — the assistant remained in constant communication with Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson, who asked him to stick around while the program searched for a new head coach for Indiana basketball.
Then came Mike Woodson, who was hired as Indiana’s 30th head coach on March 28. After the two met, got to know each other and discussed plans for the program, Woodson offered Hunter a position to return to the Hoosiers’ coaching staff.
Hunter said it was a no-brainer.
“I really wanted to stay, and after meeting coach Woodson for the couple of days that I did, it was evident that this is a good guy,” Hunter said Thursday. “I would love to help him in his transition coming from the NBA. He’s put together a really good staff.”
Through their early conversations, Hunter discovered a powerful presence in Woodson and a wealth of knowledge. The former NBA coach looks to implement schematic styles from professional basketball to college, which Hunter said excites him.
Woodson finalized his coaching staff by hiring assistant Yasir Rosemond on Wednesday. He joins Hunter and Dane Fife, who has hired last week after 10 years at Michigan State.
Hunter said that he and Woodson spent days in the office bouncing ideas off one another. And now that the staff is complete, each day is about getting to know each other.
“Him being an Indiana graduate, his blood, sweat and tears were shed here,” Hunter said of Woodson. “And I just think that he's going to put a lot of effort and time into making this a program that everyone can be excited about.”
Even with optimism among the staff, the program quickly faced adversity after Miller's firing, as six Indiana athletes quickly entered the transfer portal to weigh their options. The Hoosiers will be without two key contributors from last season as a result.
Armaan Franklin left the program for Virginia, and Al Durham transferred to Providence. However, Indiana retained the majority of its potential transfers, including Khristian Lander, Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo and Parker Stewart. Hunter was the key recruiter in getting Stewart to Bloomington in the first place.
The program also landed Pittsburgh transfer Xavier Johnson, who Hunter said displays leadership that he believes the team needs. Hunter has had long-time ties with Johnson for years during his original recruiting process. And while he may need to work on his long-range shooting, Hunter praised Johnson’s ability to create offensive opportunities for himself and teammates in transition.
Star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis will lead all the players returning to Indiana. Hunter said it speaks volumes on Woodson’s character that Jackson-Davis did not enter the transfer portal alongside some of his fellow teammates.
The coaching staff continues to have daily conversations with players and their families to build strong relationships within a rebuilding program. Fans will have to wait to see what kind of productivity the staff can get out of their players during the 2021-22 season.
“Yeah, we lost a couple guys, but we feel like the majority of the guys that we got back, we can continue to build a team that Indiana fans will be proud of.”
Related stories on Indiana basketball
- ROSEMOND HIRED: Indiana completed its coaching staff of Wednesday when Yasir Rosemond was hired Mike Woodson's third assistant coach. CLICK HERE
- FIFE, WOODSON ATTACHED AT HIP: Mike Woodson and Dane Fife both have deep love for the Indiana basketball program, and even though they're from two different generations, they and bonded by one similar trait. CLICK HERE
- JOEY BRUNK WILL NOT RETURN: After missing all of last season due to injury, redshirt senior Joey Brunk enters the transfer portal and will not play with the Hoosiers in 2021-22. CLICK HERE