BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Everyone has an opinion, it seems, on Indiana's hiring of Mike Woodson as its next basketball coach. I had mine, of course, and I like it a lot, though I seem to be in the minority, even locally.
Woodson, a former great player here with a long NBA playing and coaching resume, is completely different from the four other permanent head coaches who preceded him since his coach, Bob Knight, was fired in 2000.
Woodson's hiring by athletic director Scott Dolson became official on Monday, and the highlights of the hour-long press conference did make national news. Some thought it was a great hire, some didn't.
Here's a few things that got said around the country:
Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser on PTI
Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, the popular PTI talking heads on ESPN, were opposed to Archie Miller's firing – especially Northwestern grad Wilbon – but they were both on board with Indiana hiring Woodson, whom Wilbon knows well for all his years covering the NBA.
"The last time the New York Knicks were any damn good it wasn't (Tom Thibodeau) who got them there, it was Mike Woodson who got them there in 2013, the only time they've advanced to the playoffs in 20 years,'' Wilbon said.
"He coached 680 NBA games. He's an Indiana guy. He's a Hoosier in terms of college basketball through and through. He's probably better than Indiana deserved. I'm thrilled for Woody. ... Glad for Woody. Glad to hear it.''
Kornheiser added: "We talk about Juwan Howard at Michigan, but the difference is Woodson doesn't need any training wheels. He wasn't an assistant all this time, he was a head coach. He knows what he's doing. I'm going back to the Bobby Knight era. Tom Crean didn't play for Bobby Knight, Archie Miller didn't play for Bobby Knight. Mike Woodson played for Bobby Knight. I like the hire, I really do.''
Around the Horn
In the final round of Around the Horn on Monday on ESPN, Emily Kaplan and Cinton Yates discussed whether it was a smart hire. Kaplan liked it, Yates not so much.
"A smart one. He comes in with a great recruiting pitch, I'm the last coach to take the Knicks to the playoffs. He's also got unfinished business. The team before he got to Indiana won a natty, and the team after he left won a natty,'' Kaplan said.
"It's a fortunate one,'' Yates said. "Hello, because someone who likes Indiana wants to coach Indiana. That program is not what people think it is. There are a lot of expectations, a former blueblood. Good for them to get somebody to come home.''
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Longtime Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley isn't a big fan of Woodson's, dating back to Woodson's coaching days with the Atlanta Hawks, where he took a horrible roster and got into the playoffs a few years later, but didn't win enough for Bradley's liking.
"(Woodson) is among the more curious hires of the millennium. He’s 63. He hasn’t coached college basketball. There’s a chance (Woodson) will succeed in the fishbowl job where four others have failed. There’s a better chance he won’t.
"Now Woody is the coach of his alma mater, which found a donor willing to pay $10 million to buy out Archie Miller after four years. The post-Knight IU has reached the Final Four once, that in 2002 under Mike Davis, whose fate it was to succeed Knight. Davis lasted four more years before stepping aside. Then came Kelvin Sampson, who landed the school on deep-dish NCAA probation. Then Tom Crean, who three times took the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16 but no farther. (Crean now coaches Georgia.) Then Miller, who left Dayton after taking the Flyers to the Big Dance four years running.
Indiana’s latest search was complicated by Brad Stevens — once of Butler, now of the Celtics — saying no. It has been reported that Thad Matta — once of Butler, more recently of Ohio State — agreed to take the job but failed a physical. Matta has back/leg issues; he might have taken the Georgia job had his physician cleared him. Indiana claims Matta received no offer and failed no exam. Chris Holtmann — once of Butler, now of Ohio State — also said no.
Plot twist: Matta, who’s 10 years younger than Woodson, will join the Indiana athletic department as an associate AD for basketball. Such a package deal is, in college circles, unusual if not unprecedented. With Woodson having never recruited, he figures to need all the advice he can get. Still, we’ve seen what Woodson thinks of advice. (Larry) Drew talked his way into becoming the Hawks’ head coach by listing all the swell ideas he’d had that Woodson ignored.''
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Worst logic among fans
What most fans seem to get wrong is that Woodson will be confused by the college game because he's never coached at this level. I'm worn out from arguing with people about that on social media.
Many of my best friends are high school basketball coaches in Indiana, but not of them could coach the Indiana Hoosiers right now – because they have no major college basketball experience. But that logic doesn't come into play with Woodson. He's been the head coach at the highest level in the world for 680 games and there's nothing he hasn't seen before, on offense or defense.
So fans, please save your breath on that one. It may take a while to get the talent level up to where he wants it – but don't be surprised if it happens quickly – but one thing is certain. Indiana will run better offense, and it will play better defense. I have no doubt about that.
Coaching changes in 2021
Thee have been 10 coaching changes in the power conferences, the traditional Power 5 and the Big East for basketball, and seven of the spots have been filled thus far. The argument has been made that none of these other schools would have considered Woodson for their head coaching vacancy.
My answer to that? Who cares. Scott Dolson determined that Mike Woodson was the best man for this job, and it wasn't only because he's an IU alum. That's an important piece, but it's just one of many reasons why he got the job, and one of many reasons why he'll succeed.
There's been a lot of negative voices about this hire – even right here locally in Indianapolis – but that's not coming from me. I stand by what I said Sunday, that I think this will work out great. I have full faith in Woodson that he will put together a good staff, and the talent level will improve quickly as well. And the players who are already here? I also have no doubt that they will perform better under Woodson than they did under Archie Miller.
If you were wondering, here's all the openings this year and who's been hired so far through Tuesday. I wouldn't take any of those new hires over Woodson:
- BOSTON COLLEGE: Jim Christian out, Earl Grant hired
- *DePAUL: Dave Leitao out, no new hire yet
- INDIANA: Archie Miller out, Mike Woodson hired
- IOWA STATE: Steve Prohm out, T.J. Otzelberger hired
- MARQUETTE: Steve Wojciechowski out, Shaka Smart hired
- MINNESOTA: Richard Pitino out, Ben Johnson hired
- *OKLAHOMA: Lon Kruger retired, no new hire yet
- PENN STATE: Jim Ferry (interim) out, Micah Shrewsberry hired
- *TEXAS: Shaka Smart out, no new hire yet
- UTAH: Larry Krystkowiak out, Craig Smith hired
Other Division 1 coaching moves
- ALBANY: Will Brown out, Dwayne Killings hired
- BINGHAMTON: Tommy Dempsey out, Levell Sanders (interim)
- *CENTRAL CONNECTICUT: Donyell Marshall out, no new hire
- CHARLESTON: Earl Grant out, Pat Kelsey hired
- DENVER: Rodney Billups out, Jeff Wulbrun hired
- *EASTERN ILLINOIS: Jay Spoonhour out, no new hire
- *EASTERN MICHIGAN: Rob Murphy out, no new hire
- EASTERN WASHINGTON: Shantay Legans out, David Riley hired
- *FORDHAM: Jeff Neubauer out, no new hire
- GEORGE MASON: Dave Paulsen out, Kim English hired
- HOFSTRA: Joe Mihalich out, no new hire
- *IUPUI: Byron Rimm II (interim), no new hire
- INDIANA STATE: Greg Lansing out, Josh Schertz hired
- JACKSONVILLE: Tony Jasick out, Jordan Mincy hired
- *LAMAR: Tic Price out, no new hire
- McNEESE STATE: Heath Schroyer out, John Aiken hired
- NEW MEXICO: Paul Weir out, Richard Pitino hired
- NORTHERN ILLINOIS: Mark Montgomery out, Rashon Burno hired
- PORTLAND: Terry Porter out, Shantay Legans hired
- *SAN JOSE STATE: Jean Prioleau out, no new hire
- SOUTH CAROLINA STATE: Murray Garvin out, Tony Madlock hired
- *TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI: Willis Wilson out, no new hire
- *UC-RIVERSIDE: Mike Magpayo (interim), no new hire
- *TENNESSEE-MARTIN: Montez Robinson (interim), no new hire
- *TEXAS-RIO GRANDE VALLEY: Jai Steadman (interim), no new hire
- UNLV: T.J. Otzelberger out, Kevin Kruger hired
- *UTAH STATE: Craig Smith out, no new hire
- *WINTHROP: Pat Kelsey, no new hire