Part of Mike Woodson’s strategy to cut down on turnovers involves guilt

In most basketball programs, excessive turnovers might land a player on the bench, and they might get a few stern words from their head coach.

Those are tactics that Indiana head coach Mike Woodson has no doubt used from time-to-time to get someone’s attention who keeps giving the ball away to the other team.

But the long-time NBA and first year college coach has another trick up his sleeve.  If his team exceeds their turnover limit for a game they have to run.  That’s still pretty standard stuff, but what’s worse is that they have to watch their 63-year-old head coach struggle through the sprints too, along with just about everyone else at the practice.

Indiana’s players got a taste of that on Monday after a 27 turnover performance the day before against Louisiana.

“We have this thing now, when you go over the limit, and 12 is our limit, everybody’s gotta run, even the coaches and managers,” Woodson told Don Fischer on his radio show on Monday night.  “So last night is not sitting real well with me, because we were 15 over our limit, so that’s 15 trips up and down the court that I’ve gotta run, and that’s tough.”

If there is any saving grace for the players, it is that the coach can also dial-back the punishment — something he might be more inclined to do since he has to participate.  It isn’t clear whether it was because Woodson was maxed out or perhaps because IU plays again on Tuesday night, but everyone got at least a momentary reprieve on Monday.

“We didn’t get ’em all in today,” Woodson said.  “I broke it up and I took four today, and I gotta hope tomorrow (against Jackson State on Tuesday) they don’t just add to the problem.”

Turnovers have been a mounting problem for Woodson’s first Indiana team.  After they committed just eight in the season opener against Eastern Michigan, they’ve had 15, 16, and then the 27 miscues in the succeeding games.  That’s a 16.5 a game average thus far and a turnover rate of 22.2 percent, which puts Indiana at No. 279 nationally according to KenPom.

But Woodson leans on his experience as an NBA coach for comfort that his IU squad will improve their ball security.

“The short time that we’ve been together we’ve harped, and I’m a big believer, if you’re going to be a good offensive team you’ve got to give yourself opportunities to score the basketball without turning it over,” he told Fischer.  “Even my teams in the NBA that I coached, Atlanta and New York, I’ve gone two years where I’ve led the NBA in not turning the ball over.”

For his part Fischer tried to comfort Woodson.  He didn’t offer to take a few those remaining sprints for him, but he did recall a time when a coach Woodson knows well had a team with even more miscues.

While the 27 turnovers on Sunday were significant, it was not a record for Indiana.

“I know you think that’s a big number, but the very first game I did in 1973 with Coach Knight on the sidelines, it was Indiana against the Citadel,” Fischer said.  “Indiana won it by about 20 or 22 points, and they turned the ball over 33 times in that game.”

Woodson did find some solace in the fact that his former coach had a similar experience.

“I feel a little bit better, just a little bit,” he said.

But that doesn’t help him with the running.


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