Hoosiers name Mike Woodson as next men’s basketball coach

Report from Indy Star reporter Zach Osterman:

IU will reach into its illustrious past to try and improve its future, a bold play from first-year athletic director Scott Dolson in trying to get his flagship program back among the country’s best. 

Mike Woodson, who scored more than 2,000 points over four seasons at Indiana before embarking upon a lengthy NBA career that includes stops as head coach with Atlanta and New York, will become the 30th coach in program history. A source confirmed to IndyStar the two sides are close to a deal.

Woodson’s hiring will be a flashpoint for debate within his fan base, not so much for his profile or personality but for the potential risk his hiring represents. 

On the one hand, the Broad Ripple graduate has never coached in college, which means he’s never confronted the recruiting, roster construction and management demands at this level. He also just turned 63, making him the oldest coach IU has hired to that position full time since at least World War II. 

On the other, Woodson brings extensive NBA coaching experience to the job. In a moment when modern offensive principles are becoming the gold standard in college basketball and player branding appears likely to define the next decade of college basketball, Woodson’s deep background at that level should bring a new perspective on what it will take IU to be successful again at the level it expects. 

Woodson is the first former Indiana player to fill the position full time since Lou Watson succeeded Branch McCracken in 1965. 

Woodson was an assistant on Larry Brown’s staff when Brown won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. He has logged five playoff appearances as a head coach, three with Atlanta and two with New York. Across nine seasons as an NBA head coach, Woodson is 315-365.

35 comments

  1. My only concern is his age at 63. That suggests he’ll be a four to six year bridge to the next coach. Or, he could be like Florida State’s coach who is still getting it done in his 70’s. But if he’s good, he should be able to return IU BB to national relevance in that time frame, building the program back up so that the IU job will be much more attractive to future coaches.

    1. Po,
      I’m not sure how I feel about this hire. Time will tell. The combo hire of him and Motta is very interesting. I think Woodson’s experience in the NBA should play well with transfers and recruiting. Additionally, I think existing IU players stay unless Woodson doesn’t think they are good enough to play on his team. His age is a concern, as well as lack of college coaching experience, but if he can return IU to relevance, then IU becomes a desirable option for other high caliber coaches in the future. A key will be the assistant coaches he can attract. You’ve got to think Motta will have a lot of input.

  2. Woodson knows the I U tradition and culture of the men’s program, if he can retains the current roster, and hire some super recruiting assistant coaches,then he has time this spring and summer to start building the program. If he can’t retain most of the current roster and recruits, may be like year one withTom Crean.

  3. Hopefully Woodson can retain much of the current roster as well as incoming freshmen commits. He obviously knows the pro game , & isn’t that the offense kids want to run nowadays? I, too, hope Woodson can get some top notch assistant coaches. Maybe one that could be groomed as a head coach in waiting. Is that too far fetched?

  4. Brad should be ecstatic….Woodson won’t look like a midget when standing next to Juwan Howard.
    I am completely relieved.

    The Matta thing is weird. Spelling his name Motta is even weirder.

    Darn, so much for Hall & Oats…What could have been…? What could have been?

  5. No, it’s not! My second thought after reading that Woodson was hired was “I’ll bet he can attract a lot of quality candidates for his assistant coaching positions.”

    Look, he was coached by Bob Knight in college and coached and mentored by Larry Brown in the NBA. You can’t get much better training than that. And he has nine years of head coaching experience. Most importantly, he said earlier today, “this is a dream come true.” To be effective in the job, you have to be passionate in your desire for the job. You have to want it with heart and soul, and Woodson obviously does.

    Last comment for a while: I’ll never forget taking a road trip to Champaign, IL with some buddies to watch IU play Illinois. I think it was in early 1979 and I was a Junior. We got great seats and watched Woodson scored 48 points in leading IU to a blow-out win that day. Woodson could not miss! It was the most amazing display of offense I’ve ever seen in my life. Shots that would now be three-pointers, mid-range shots, drives to the basket, free throws, you name it, he just kept filling up that basket.

    1. Great post Po. He is the ingredient to meld the flavors of players into a team. I have no qualms about him dealing with teenagers. He’s been swimming with primadonas for 3 decades. Just wondering if Greg Graham is doing well enough at his big to show promise as an assistant in Bloomington. Really like the addition of a wild card such as Matta. Talk about instant available advice from a successful professional. Dolson if proven correct holds a double Doctorate in processing and scheming. I really like people who a couple of twists to problem solving equations. Think of the details he’s had to deal with to get to this point.
      Go HOOSIERS!!!

  6. May I also say that this announcement was of very poor timing….? Talk about chauvinist pigs? Think they could have given the women’s team a little more than 24 hours to bask in the glory and the local attention over their first ever Elite Eight?
    Nothing like stealing the headlines from a well-deserving group of Hoosiers actually relevant in a March Madness. You can pass all the anti-discrimination laws in the world (along with Title IX and Athletes Bill of Rights) but it can never stop the feelings of nonchalant privilege in the male-dominated world of athletic departments and boardrooms.

    Give the women their moment…to celebrate. Very inconsiderate timing.

  7. Can’t hurt to help recruit some high quality players for IU Ladies basketball team.

    Corks a popping Champagne flows
    Filling up with bubbles in the room
    Everyone that made this possible
    Laughing crazy happiness in the air
    And yes the money flows into bank accounts
    Of those that declare who and themselves most worthy

  8. I could not be happier! Woody is an NBA veteran, a Hoosier legend, and a great person! We, the fan base, can now stop micro-managing IU Basketball, and go back to being enthusiastic Indiana Basketball fans!

  9. Will see, no college coaching experience and a bit long in the tooth. Was really hoping for someone a bit younger. Hopefully he brings on some younger assistants that can help bridge to gen gap??

  10. Yeah right indiana alums not micro managing?ill believe it when i see it,theres always complaints big or small well folks you complained about a mike davis “nba” offense Mike Woodson trained under Mike Dantoni,spacing and 3 point shooting all the things you old timers hate

  11. Only Harv could interpret this announcement as a blast to the women’s team. Chauvinist pigs? Jesus dude. You need to get off of the internet and get a grip.

    There’s only 70% of the roster in limbo and taking calls from other programs. They need a captain to get this ship dislodged from the canal before we get to watch another 3 years of walk ons and cheering hustle plays down twenty at home.

    1. For what it’s worth, this has obviously been in process for a few days, if not more. Info can only hold for so long — maybe they tried to wait until after Saturday night’s game — and as noted, there are reasons it needed to get done sooner than later.

  12. I wanted to read the various articles and comments from around the country before chiming in. Congratulations to Scott. He addressed the situation as a multilayered obstacle. So far, nearly brilliant. In short, Woodson’s hiring caught me ‘off guard’,..Matta’s infusion into the equation is a cornerstone of stability, respectability, stature, great knowkedge, experience and competence that this program has lacked for decades. One only has to read what former IU teammates are saying. I see IU finding a couple of established, younger recruiters added to the staff. I’d be surprised if Mike didn’t bring in a couple of former, younger IU guys as assistants to balance the bench. Likely guys coaching elsewhere right now. Matta’s contribution, especially early on, cannot be overstated! Bumper rails or not. And yes H4H,..when Mike shakes hands (or elbow bumps the opposing coach) he won’t be looking at his belt buckle, in most instances, looking down.

    1. Just a few minutes ago I heard Charles Barkley say that Woodson needed to get a couple of young assistants for recruiting, seemingly yesterday.

    2. Just remember, Brad, they all stand well below belt buckle to banners. Until Howard wins one, he’s no taller than Archie Miller. At an Elite Eight, he’s currently the same height. And it doesn’t hurt when your predecessor gives you a brother of Moe Wagner rather than Tim Priller.

      Glad everyone is momentarily happy..Speaking of “Woody,” put the lumber order from Lowes for the next guillotine on temporary back order status.

      At least with Woody and friends we’ll have plenty of on-site heyday Hoosiers to serve as pallbearers for when Bobby kicks.

      I just couldn’t help having a bit of laugh when Andy Katz (who irritates me mightily, by the way) mentioned the Hoosiers hiring Woodson during the postgame round table discussions recapping March Madness games (other than Katz, it’s the usual TNT NBA guys. Katz given ‘baby bear’s chair’ while filling in for Shaq)….Anyhow, as soon as Katz used an opportunity to say Indiana had hired Mike Woodson, you could hear Barkley giggling off-camera. Ouch.

  13. My memories of Woodson as a player are sort of blurry…What I think I remember most is his very understated personality on the court. His game was surely as masterful as many recall….I just don’t have memories of big emotions coming from Woodson. The few times I’ve watched him working on the sidelines of the NBA, it’s been the same Woodson. Personalities are rare things to see transformed….The biggest transformation in a sports personality I ever witnessed was in George Foreman. Anyway, I digress.
    What is evident from Juwan Howard is just how much he wears the emotions on his sleeve. Also see that sort of big personality in Patrick Ewing and Chris Beard…(along with just about every coach still alive in March Madness). Mark Few is a bit different….but I think he’s running some sort of a basketball cult at a Jesuit retreat in sleepy Spokane. But when Few is interviewed, you see a bit of sly sense of humor come through…There’s probably much more to him than meets the eye.
    Don’t see much understated or low key personalities. Archie Miller was rarely appearing as if basketball was fun for him (even in those rare stretches the Hoosiers were playing well). Ultimately, you have to be what is natural for your own comfort in your own skin.
    Can a guy be too even keel? We’ve been a program sleepwalking for a very long time. And when we’ve tried to sell excitement (Crean years) it often felt more like marketing than genuine love for team or job at hand.
    I was hoping for a bit bigger personality and someone who loves what they do ….possibly more than how much they love Indiana (along with loving shaping young men into something bigger than the game).

    Thank you, Charles Barkley! “The NCAA is the Barney Fife of the basketball world.”….LOL! Barkley went on to say some other very interesting things regarding Mike Woodson as a college coach. Much of it had to do with personality and relating to the kids he’s going to recruit (mirroring much of what I posted above). “These kids aren’t going to know who he is. He better get some hotshot young assistants who can talk and relate to these kids.”

    Is there more than meets the eye with Woodson? Is he young at heart? Youth is in the heart and not the year on the birth certificate.

  14. I applaud the hire, Woodson was #2 on my wish list after Stevens. I think he is the right choice with the recent NBA experience & IU & IN pedigree. Will it be enough? Time will tell, we’ll know after 4 years. One thing is for sure, he has the support of the former player fraternity.

    Now we enter the Harbaugh-MI paradox. One of our own, our IU DNA, is in charge at Basketball U (again). We all hope he succeeds, but if the Ws, Big Ten titles, Sweet 16s, Final Fours & banners don’t roll in, the already fractured fan base & program will only get worse. My point is that it is hard & highly disruptive to run one of your own outta Dodge.

    Lastly, in my opinion, all of the Power 5 & tournament team coaches have the aptitude, the X’s & O’s, the experience, the knowledge and the will to be winners. It all comes down to having great players, teamwork & execution.

  15. Dan Dakich was one of our own…Another terrible slap in the poor face to Disenfranchised Dan. He stopped Jordan. He stopped the Kelvin thugs from smoking weed in dorms and being late for practice. He has a loudspeaker in Indy to unleash the feelings of a Hoosier who guarded the same home that kicked his loyal DNA out. His love for Indiana given less return to its sender than an old Elvis tune.
    Interesting dynamics….between a radio/ESPN personality who has one of the loudest voices covering the Hoosiers and those brought back to the “Hoosier family.”

    1. We didn’t hire Dan & his feelings got hurt. He can spew all he wants. He was on ESPNU with Childers/Neuheisel last week talking about the IU vacancy. He said, and I quote from memory “…..then they had Sampson & kids didn’t go to class & the staff let that go on…” HE WAS ON THE STAFF!!! WTH?!?! I think it was a key reason he wasn’t hired. He was part of the stray from classroom accountability.

      His discontent he owns. I think most others with the DNA aren’t as sad for Mouthy Dan as they are happy for Woodson, who would seem to further unite the fraternity. Which is important! Don’t kid yourselves, there are A LOT of IU former players out there with connections to basketball everywhere in this country. We’re going to get some kids from other locations to supplement local talent. I still think we can win with 8 IN kids on the roster. They exist. We just need to land the right ones.

      1. Believe me, I’m the last person who cares about Dakich’s feelings. I had some further comments with regard to Woodson…(even used your “paradox” quote), but they’re still in the Price holding tank (a.k.a. Comments from the Crypt).
        I simply think it’s an interesting dynamic playing out when Indiana dips back into the old cookie jar and goes with the ‘History Channel’ hire.
        You have the guy running his shock-jock radio program (also with a gig on ESPN) who continually talks of not being part of the “Bobby Boosters Club”….And then we have the new coach who uses the first few minutes of his press conference to dedicated much of the shaping of his life to Bob Knight.
        I just want to start printing the “Ask Thad” t-shirts. Ask Thad, Dan…..Ask Thad.

      2. Don’t kid yourselves, there are A LOT of IU former players out there with connections to basketball everywhere in this country.

        But do we need some new connections? Are all those “connections” so strongly molded by the ideologies and methods of Knight that they limit our perspectives and choices? Ultimately, I tend to think just about every recruit must find a very deep trust and personal connection to the head coach in charge of the program. Do they believe that the recent history of the new hire indicates the coach can take the program to higher places. Keep one thing in mind, Knight already had Indiana Basketball on big stages before Mike Woodson ever had his first recruiting call. I think Woodson’s own words today said something like “I knew he was a great coach.”

  16. I was there that day also. Terribly cold, snowy and icy all the way from Indiana. It was cold outside but Woodson make it hot inside. You are right, he couldn’t miss. I sat with two of my brothers (Illini fans) and had a great time as their faces dropped lower and lower. If they would have had the 3-point line, it is hard to tell how many extra points that would have added to Woodson’s total.

    Thanks for bringing this game up, it has me excited again. If Woodson can teach out guys how to shoot like he did, we will see great times. In his IU career, he hit about 78% on free-throws and 50% on field shots. Hopefully he can help our guys hit those targets also.

  17. My comment above is relative to the game in 1979 in Champaign, Illinois when Woodson threw in 48 points. This was mentioned in an earlier comment by “Podunker” on March 28, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    1. Dennis: Nice recall. My childhood memories go back to Paul Lennon, WTTV and cannisters of ‘Chesty’ potato chips. “I’ve got my ticket,..do you have yours” he would utter holding the Chesty cannister. Jimmy Rayl (the splendid splinter) [post Ted Williams]. On 2 separate occassions hitting 56 points, still an IU record. NONE of Rayl’s shots were less than 20′. Most of them were flying out of bounds on thevright corner.
      Today, he’d had no less than 75 points.

  18. This Woodson hire is waking up the dead faster than a hot nurse wakes up dad at the assisted living center. Goosebumps…goosebumps. This is better than all three reunions in a barnyard banner dance. I feel like I could actually drink a beer tonight. I’m gonna pass on the Metamucil in warmed milk and live it up tonight. Tomorrow I break out the leather Spalding ….put on my short-shorts, dust off the Converse …head down to the gym and show-off my free throw stroke. I wonder if I can still touch the net…with the extra weight of Depends?

    1. Glad to read that someone else saw the “Splendid Splinter” and his famed “shooting jump shot while falling out of bounds”, While sadly he is no longer with us ,there is someone that could temporarily take some pressure off Coach Woodson in the area of Shooting. Being partisan is ok as long as it doesnt blind oneself to the needs of the team. Scott Dolson send some money and a limousine to Lebanon ,Indiana and bring him to Assembly Hall to TEACH shooting. I have seen 3 GREAT ,REALLY Great shooters 1 Jerry West, 2) Rick Berry and 3) last but not least Rick Mount. I believe Mount still has his shooting camp. Woodson is going to need all the help he can get.

      1. TJ: Butler Fieldhouse daytime double header in the middle of the week. My buddy drove to school, so he drove us to the game. Arlington H S students were allowed to go since we were playing Washington H S in the opener. We got blown out. But like everyone there, about 8,500, (not 10,000 as listed) we wanted to see ‘the Rocket’. Lebanon vs Crawfordsville. In warm ups, Mount missed 2 of about 20 shots..the crowd ooohed and aaahed. He had, I think 57…and Lebanon still lost if memory serves me correctly.

  19. I liked Remy Abell for hitting a big corner three against Purdue….Some like to Remy Nisce about guys who played for Purdue. I digress….

    Now we enter the Harbaugh-MI paradox. One of our own, our IU DNA, is in charge at Basketball U (again). We all hope he succeeds, but if the Ws, Big Ten titles, Sweet 16s, Final Fours & banners don’t roll in, the already fractured fan base & program will only get worse. My point is that it is hard & highly disruptive to run one of your own outta Dodge.

    Quite the paradox, indeed, AWinAZ….I’m a bit frightened. After listening to Woodson and hearing his opening moments of his introduction speech dedicated to his total admiration and love for Bob Knight, it made me wonder if we’re moving on…or moving back. The bridge between our past and the future is a challenging one to navigate.

    Hope Woodson can get it done….He seems like a deep thinker and a man of exceeding good character. .Sometimes we worry too much about “healing wounds.” Sometimes it’s better to close a chapter and begin anew. I often feel we’ve ‘History Channeled’ the Indiana Hoosiers. Recruits and young people want o live in the now….Remember how it felt to be young? History can sometimes serve as a heavy shadow and a weight. It sometimes serves as your own worst enemy as you measure progress and performance of all based on those suffocating standards of greatness. You don’t reminisce when you’re 18. You want to breathe in the new air….like a new
    Assembly Hall a new coach arriving in a new and unfamiliar town.
    It’s the youth of the world who will shape our future. I wonder if we hinder such a future when we don’t let go….I wish they’d all let go. Dakich in Indianapolis, as well. Bob Knight moving back to Bloomington? Yuk. Move on. Fifty year anniversaries…and Hammel, etc, etc. And now a name from the past to take us down Reminisce Lane for more years?
    Remember how it felt to by young? Remember how it felt to see the world as all uncharted territory? Do we pump too much of the past into the ears of those who should also have their chance to live youth in the now? Allow them to make and shape Indiana….in the same fashion we all had our opportunity to take our maiden voyages without the weight of shadows and expectations based on those shadows of the past.

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