This is the sixth in a series of profiles of potential candidates for Indiana’s vacant basketball head coaching position.
Candidate: Mike Woodson
Current Position/Tenure: New York Knicks assistant coach since 2020.
Previous Jobs: Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach, 2014-18; New York Knicks head coach 2012-14; New York Knicks assistant coach 2011-12; Atlanta Hawks head coach 2004-10; Detroit Pistons assistant coach 2003-04; Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach 2001-03; Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach 1999-2001; Milwaukee Bucks assistant 1996-99.
Career Accomplishments: Led the Hawks to the playoffs three times and to the Eastern Conference semis twice. Took the Knicks to the playoffs twice and the Eastern Conference semis once. Owns 315-365 career record. Won an NBA title as an assistant with the Pistons in 2004. As a player, was an All-American at Indiana in 1980 when he helped the Hoosiers to a Big Ten title and a Sweet 16. Scored 2,062 points at Indiana. Played in the NBA from 1980-91 for six teams. Scored 10,981 career points, averaging 14.0 per game for his career.
Statistical Hallmarks: Woodson’s last playoff team with the Knicks in 2012-13 ranked No. 3 in the NBA in offensive efficiency, No. 19 in defensive efficiency, and No. 26 in pace. His last Atlanta Hawks playoff team was second in offensive efficiency, 14th in defensive efficiency, and 27th in pace.
Why it might work: Woodson is an alum who played at IU during its glory era, even though his playing career encompassed the space between the 1976 and 1981 national titles. He understands what it takes to play at the professional level and what coaches at that level are looking for so that fits in well for Scott Dolson’s stated goals of the hire. The NBA experience would give him credibility with the players and the fans and alums who deeply want the job to go to an IU guy — and in particular, a former student of Bobby Knight — will finally be satisfied.
Why it might not work/happen: Michigan’s Juwan Howard presents an obvious example of a former player coming back to his alma mater and having success after a long professional career and a coaching path that begins in the NBA. However, Howard is 15 years younger than Woodson. Current college players at least have some recollection of him as a professional winning an NBA title with LeBron James in 2012 and 2013 before he got into coaching. His college days obviously came long ago, but the Fab Five still maintains some cultural caché, especially in Michigan. and in the midwestern cities where they came from. Woodson’s last NBA season was Howard’s senior year of high school.
So Woodson wouldn’t be the same recruiting draw Howard was, and Howard was growing an exceptional reputation as an assistant on the Miami Heat staff under Erik Spoelstra before he went the college route. And he had just six years of that life. Woodson has had success in the NBA, but he still has a sub .500 career record as a head coach and he has been in the coaching business for 25 years without ever having had to recruit a single player. Thrusting him into that life now at this stage of his career would still be an experiment and the Hoosiers would only have so much time to make it work.
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