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Mike Woodson: Doomed to Failure at Indiana

Publish Date: 02/05/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

At first glance, it might seem unwise for an inexperienced college coach to assume an administrative job, which often has nothing to do with coaching basketball. And it would be reasonable for one to question his capabilities of doing it and his understanding of his alma mater’s complexities before accepting such a post.

When Mike Woodson was named as Indiana’s basketball coach a few years ago, people were excited; we finally had a former Knight player on board to save the program. Archie Miller had p[aonfully failed, and Woodson would be the Hoosier’s saviour, not so fast!

As an NBA coach, you don’t have to deal with things that a college coach does, and maybe the biggest issue is”NBA coaches new to college coaching is its third pillar which doesn’t exist in the NBA: spending the necessary time dealing with college kids as individuals.” This is probably the biggest issue when coaching college basketball compared to the NBA.

As college sports have evolved over time, an essential ingredient of success lies in your ability to connect, relate and motivate — and how much effort is expended on understanding what makes each player tick.

Successful college coaches today dedicate an inordinate amount of their time and energy to dealing with issues that don’t need to be managed as intensively by coaches from pro backgrounds.

Mike Woodson was named the 30th basketball coach at Indiana a few years ago, where his life has forever changed as an academic teacher; girlfriend issues, players with mental health challenges, and phone calls from parents who disapprove of how much their son plays will all have to be dealt with daily – unlike working as an NBA coach where you clock out, shut off your phone or go on vacation before disconnecting – it is part of every hour and day he spends in this job and lifestyle.

With the transfer portal offering players more freedom of movement, take all this and multiply by 10.

There’s a good reason this type of NBA-to-college coaching transition hasn’t worked historically.

Rutgers tried it with Eddie Jordan, an NBA veteran who also had some college coaching experience before heading off into the NBA in the 1980s. Jordan only lasted three seasons. Alabama attempted it with Avery Johnson, who actually recruited some pretty solid players but only finished 34-38 in SEC play before being let go—Sidney Lowe at N.C. State was an epic failure, while Mike Dunleavy at Tulane proved he didn’t know how to relate with college players properly, and Patrick Ewing was an epic failure at his alma mater, Georgetown.

Mike Woodson is in his mid-60s, but nobody considered that when he was hired. Also, in the NBA, he was known as a head coach who let players run the show. Carmelo Anthony loved Coach Woodson because he was allowed to do as he pleased under coach Woodson.

His offenses in the NBA were destroyed by fans and media alike as having very little purpose and being very individualistic, which sounds familiar. He was supposed to be a great defensive coach, but the Hawks and Knicks, the teams he coached in the NBA, struggled on the defensive end.

The biggest knock on Woodson’s teams in the NBA was that they often played uninspired and lacking effort. Sound familiar?

Quinn Buckner was the man in charge of hiring Woodson; it was not AD Scott Dolson, and that’s an issue as Buckner and Woodson are longtime friends. Woodson got a Million-dollar raise after last season. What did he do to get the raise? Miami dominated Indiana in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament. How do you get a raise for being mediocre?

The only thing that saved Woodson in his first two years was Trace Jackson Davis, an Archie Miller recruit. Three years into this experiment, and now, except for a couple of players, this is Woodson’s team. It’s a team that defends poorly, plays with no intensity, doesn’t rebound and can’t shoot free throws or three-pointers. This is a team that, by Woodson’s choice, made Xavier Johnson a captain. I would go through all of the issues with that, but if you are an Indiana fan, you already know all of those issues.

The loss to Penn State was bad; the game was not a sell-out, and most of the people who went to the game were gone by the 3-minute mark. Are those fair-weather fans? No, they are fans with a brain; they paid a lot for tickets and got nothing in return. I say shut up for all the people who say negative fans hurt recruiting! It doesn’t because every team’s fan base is like this. Let’s face it: players who come here now are looking for a year to work out for the NBA, and they have no plans on making Bloomington a long-term stop.

Grab all the one-and-done guys you want, and as history has shown, especially as of late, there are no quick fixes to building a program. I grew up a huge fan of Mike Woodson, the player, and I am sorry if I am being negative. Three years into the Woodson culture, it looks like a complete failure. Could that change? Possibly, but it’s a long shot, and to change it, he would have to do everything completely different, and he has shown he is unwilling to do anything different.

I know what the people with their heads in the ground say: you must give him time. Time for what? We are three years in, and the team is progressively getting worse by the game. When you watch his post-game press conferences, it’s the same answers all the time; we played flat, and I need to get these guys over the hump etc… Yet he has not found a way to get them even to play hard!

Woodson is a lifetime NBA coach, and how many times has that worked out for a college team hiring an NBA lifer? This was an ill-fated attempt to give the fans a throwback Indiana guy, and it has failed miserably.

For all you Sunshine and Roses fans that think real fans don’t bitch about their team, let me leave you with this? Why did you become an Indiana fan? I became an Indiana fan because they were clean-cut, they always played hard, and Coach Knight didn’t cut corners. Even when losing they made you proud because of the effort that was given. Is that what you guys see now when you watch Indiana Basketball games? I see selfish individuals using IU as a pathway to the NBA; the effort is, at best, inconsistent. The worst part is I am watching a coach who allows these actions; enough is enough. This is not getting better anytime soon.

 

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