The Hoosiers are hiring Mike Woodson as their new head basketball coach. Scott Dolson the first-year athletic director is trying to get the flagship program back amongst the best, and this is a bold move.
The folks in Bloomington are reaching into their illustrious past to try and improve the future. We thought it might happen back in 2014 when the Indiana boosters wanted Tom Crean tossed and despite being in the middle of a playoff run with the Knicks, Mike Woodson was a dead man walking as Phil Jackson’s inevitable entrance into the fold as front office czar would mean Woodson’s dismissal.
Better late than never.
Woodson who played in Bloomington from (1976-1980) for Robert Montgomery Knight aka The General, scored over 2,000 points in his collegiate career.
He then embarked on a lengthy professional career which also saw him become the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks and lead both teams to 50-win seasons. Over nine seasons as an NBA head coach, he posted a (315-365) career record.
Woodson becomes the first former player to fill the position since Lou Watson succeeded Branch McCracken in 1965. Woodson was an assistant on Larry Brown’s 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Title winning team.
Woodson joins a fraternity of Black college coaches at Power 5 schools that is thin as the win total in Bloomington this season (12-15).
According to NBC Sports, “As of March 2020, there were 353 Division I men’s basketball programs, and just 103 of them — or 29.2 percent — had black head coaches. When HBCUs are taken out of the equation, the number falls to 24.1 percent. In the sport’s Big Seven conferences, that number is 22.9 percent. Half of the head coaches in the Big East and the American are black, so when looking at just the Power Five leagues, the number is a paltry 13.8 percent. The Pac-12 does not have a single black head coach. The only black head coach in the Big Ten is Michigan’s Juwan Howard, who was hired in May after John Beilein left for the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
So Woodson’s hire means something. Until the coaching ranks are filled with Black faces, hires like this are notable.
“Woody” as they call him is set to become the 30th head coach in program history. In a move related to this move, Indiana will also hire former Butler and Ohio State coach Thad Matta as associate athletic director for men’s basketball administration.
Matta will assist an Indiana staff which will be led by Woodson. Word has it he is trying to recruit Larry Brown, the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship.
The good thing for IU is the Matta hiring will not fill a countable position, which means the staff can still have three full-pledged assistants for Woodson to pick the brains of. Those assistants will also handle off-campus duties (recruiting, primarily).
Of course, the hiring of Woodson will be a bit of a flashpoint with the very impatient and outlandish fan base who believes the Hoosiers should be title contenders overnight for some reason.
The hiring isn’t so much about his profile but about the potential risk this hiring could represent. The concerns do carry some merit as Woodson’s never coached on the collegiate level, which means he’s never had to deal with recruiting, roster construction and management demands at this level.
Woody also just turned 63, making him the oldest coach IU has hired to that position full time since at least World War II, but that just means he has a ton of experience which will only benefit his players.
Woodson’s extensive coaching resume is one of his many attributes. In a moment when modern offensive principles are becoming the gold standard in college basketball, and player branding appears to likely be the next chapter of college basketball, Woodson’s deep background at that level should bring a new perspective and focus to IU’s desire to dunk among the top dogs again.