Mike Woodson’s ex-NBA players rate him high, and his IU players now see why – The Daily Hoosier

A year ago, Mike Woodson made a quick return to New York shortly after being hired and introduced as Indiana’s new head coach.

The former Knicks head coach and assistant was greeted with hugs and smiles from his former players on the court at Madison Square Garden, giving him a quick sense of how much NBA pros respect him.

You can see the same sentiment in some of the former Knicks players when Woodson was the team’s head coach. Some of them commented on him on a Knicks fan TV show recorded in September 2020.

“I love him, in my opinion, he should still be the coach there (in New York),” Raymond Felton said on the show. “He’s like a coach, a father figure, all of the above for me.”

“I know how many players respect him and love to play for him,” longtime NBA player Jamal Crawford said on the same show. “He knows how to coach and hold everyone accountable. He’s a straight shooter. But he also knows how to understand, and I just love playing for him.”

“He made us men first,” Kenyon Martin said. “He held us accountable…Not every coach can do that. Not every coach can demand that kind of respect. Woody did.”

Former IU star and Knicks Jared Jeffries expressed similar sentiments.

“Woody is a proven coach,” he said when Woodson was hired. “He’s been great on our Knicks team. One of the best guys I’ve ever met. Most importantly, knows our school better than anyone.”

The accolades go beyond New York.

Last month, former NBA guard Mike Bibby talked about playing for Woodson in Atlanta.

“Just met Mike Woodson. He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had, if not the best. Along the way — the way he treated the players and the way he was as a person,” Bibby said. “That’s what stood out to me.”

But what about Carmelo Anthony, one of Woodson’s most famous players?

Trayce Jackson-Davis has the same question and will be able to ask Anthony when Woodson is hired in 2021.

“I asked around, I asked Carmelo Anthony last year and he told me he was his favorite coach, and I see why now,” Davis said.

All the positive energy Woodson created during his time in the NBA seems to be present in Indiana now. Yes, the Indians lost four players in the transfer portal — but they had to come in with four freshmen. It’s no exaggeration to say Woodson has every player he wants back and has a spot.

The Hoosiers returned more than 90 percent of their points and 78 percent of their minutes last season. Both numbers are among the best in the top ten.

So why has he managed to bring everyone back in the transfer gate era?

You can see some reasons behind the scenes. Rob Phinisee gives him a big hug in the media room after his win against Purdue. Joke with Xavier Johnson as he stands at a press conference waiting for his turn.

Jackson Davis’ answer sounded a lot like what Woodson’s former NBA player said.

“I just think Coach Woodson was from the beginning the moment he came here and he told us this was going to be a family,” Jackson-Davis said. “I think all the players took that to heart. We all Hold each other accountable. We pick up people, and so does he.”

Not all hugs and jokes. Jackson Davis experienced firsthand in the Big Ten Championship that Woodson can start a fire under someone when he needs to.

But respect remains.

“He’s a great coach and he does things the right way,” Davis said.

Woodson’s career record of 315-365 (.463) as an NBA head coach was used against him. But a look at the details reveals that his win total in Atlanta is increasing every year. New York, too, until the end of the ninth year. The Knicks have still only made the playoffs once since he was fired after the 2013-14 season, and that was the 2020-21 season he played as an assistant.

In many ways, Woodson became a victim of his own NBA success.

“We grew as a team and as a player. He helped a lot of players get better,” Eagles center Zaza Pachulia told The Associated Press in 2010 after Woodson was fired. “But when you get better, you want more. I think we’re in a phase where it’s not about progress right now. It’s about winning titles.”

Now Woodson turns Indiana from a 12-15 season in 2020-21 to a top 10 favorite in 2023.

Woodson is probably what you call a player-coach, whatever that means. He believes his authoritarian style at IU is a thing of the past. Whatever method you want to describe Woodson, he seems to be hitting all the right buttons in Bloomington, at least for now.

But now he has to deliver under the weight of IU.

As has always been the case, Woodson’s players believe he is the right man for the job.

“He’s an all-around good guy, and he’s got a great personality,” Davis said.


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