BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The list of Mike Woodson admirers is long, and it keeps getting longer every day since he was named Indiana's new head coach on March 29.
We know Scott Dolson, Indiana's athletic director, loved everything about him, so much so that he hired him. Thad Matta, Dane Fife and Yasir Rosemond came-a-running to Bloomington to work with him, and Kenya Hunter gladly stayed just to be on his staff.
Several Indiana players came back, too, and talented newcomers keep showing up every day. It's been quite a month.
It almost seems funny now that the negative narrative at the time of his hire what that he was too old to relate to young kids. It was foolish then, and it's foolish now. And if you needed a reminder, you should have watched the New York Knicks' NBA game with the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
And then you'd know.
Woodson was back in New York briefly and he went to see his former team at Madison Square Garden. And when it got there, he got a big hug and a huge smile from every one of his former players. And at the end of the night, new Knicks star Julius Randle, who had 40 points in the overtime win, signed his jersey and gave it to Woodson.
A whole lot of love to pass around.
Woodson's always coaching, and when he embraced with Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, last year's first-round pick, he asked "how's the shot?'' when he saw him. And it was further reminder that even the young guys love being around him.
He knows what he's doing, which is why I have no worries about him relating to young players at Indiana. He's been through this before, with dozens of young players.
“My first year in Atlanta, I walked into a situation where I didn’t know any of the players, and they didn’t know me,'' Woodson said last week. "They were starting over, and it was a whole team of young guys, and we learned together. And for most young kids, the first thing they learn is that they have to work hard.
“A lot of times, young players that I’ve had an opportunity to coach in the NBA, they don’t play hard, and I keep harping on that. A lot of them. they slow-walk it and go through the motions. That’s what you got to do as a young player. You can’t take days off. It’s a give and take as far as I’m concerned. If you’re not willing to work hard, your days are numbered and you’ll be wondering what happened.''
Woodson also spent a few minutes with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who's got the team back in the playoff hunt for the first time in a while. That's a mutual admiration society too, and Thibs hated to see him go, but he also understood what it meant for Woodson to come home to Indiana. They are each other's biggest fans.
Indiana has a full roster now, with Woodson and his staff getting transfer Xavier Johnson (Pitt) and Miller Kopp (Northwestern) coming to Indiana, and star high school guard Tamar Bates committing to Indiana.
All that love we saw Wednesday night? There's more to come right there in Bloomington