Transcript: Mike Woodson introductory press conference
Mike Woodson was introduced as Indiana’s 30th head coach in program history on Monday morning and here’s a full transcript of his comments to the media.
Transcript via ASAP Sports:
MIKE WOODSON: Thanks for coming out. Before I even open the floor up for our questions, there are so many people that I want to acknowledge for me being here today.
Coach Bob Knight who means so much to Indiana Basketball, and he took a chance on a kid out of Indianapolis many years ago to come here and play basketball.
And it was a journey for Mike Woodson. And coming to Indiana University to play basketball, he taught me how to play the game of basketball from a fundamental standpoint. He taught me how to be a man on and off the floor. And that was huge for me coming out of the inner cities of Indianapolis.
So I pay tribute to Coach Knight in the utmost way because Indiana Basketball will always be Bob Knight. Will always be. It was great he came back in February a year ago and all the ex-players that surrounded him, the fans, it was a beautiful, beautiful thing. So Karen, Coach, I love you guys and for me this is a complete circle. I’ve done pretty much everything that I wanted to do in basketball. I never dreamed of playing professionally. You don’t go into college, particularly at that particular time, that you’re thinking that you’re going to play professional basketball. And I was just trying to get an education, which I promised my mother and sisters and brothers, and I got that, and was able to get drafted in the NBA and fortunate enough to have played 11 years.
It all worked hand-in-hand in making my decision to come to Indiana University, and then I got into this crazy game of coaching, and you know, I have a lot of people to thank for that: Cotton Fitzsimmons, who was one of my early mentors in my early days as a pro player, was the guy who summoned me to come to Phoenix and start coaching and from that day on it, took off for me. The juices started to flow and I just felt after I left the game of playing, I had something to offer some young kid as a coach on and off the floor. Because I like to think the years that I played here at Indiana University, Coach Knight did something right because I turned out just fine.
So in that regard, I felt I had something to give back and I was able to do that over the years of coaching. I was an assistant coach for about eight years and got my big break as a head coach after winning an NBA title with the great Larry Brown in Detroit. It’s been a nice run in the NBA.
But to be able to circle back and come back home and coach Indiana University Basketball means a great deal to me. It’s never been about me as a person. I do what I do because I have a beautiful wife and two daughters who allowed me over the years to do what I do.
And Terri, Alexis, Mariah, unbelievable people. I mean, they are the rock that I stand on. So for me to come back here to be in front of all my fans and family and friends, I mean, it’s amazing. You know, I never dreamed that this would ever happen to me.
But I’m here, and I have so many other people to thank: President McRobbie, Scott for taking the time to fly in. I know he had called me and said he wanted to speak with me, and he wanted to do a Zoom. And I told him, I said, if you’re interested in Mike Woodson, either I get on a plane or you get on a plane and you come see me. And he said, “I’ll be there tomorrow morning,” the next day.
It was I thought a great interview in terms of getting to know one another. Didn’t know if I was going to get the job. But I felt good about my position and what I had presented in terms of helping to move the needle here at Indiana University. So Scott, I thank you for making that trip to see me. Indiana University.
There are people here today that I’d like to thank before we get really into this and that’s my family members that are here: Scott, Quinn, can’t say enough, brother. You guys have been in my corner for many, many years and I thank you.
Wayne Junior Radford is here today and I know his dad is very happy today. Wayne, thanks for coming, brother. I want to thank my Knick family for allowing me to get out of my contract and come on.
Jim Dolan gets a bad rap in New York. But he was a great owner for me. He allowed me to head coach and he allowed me to come back and be an assistant. I have him to thank, Leon West, Scott Perry, and Tom Thibodeau, what a great coach, his beautiful staff that they have assembled in New York has allowed me to do what I do now, and be able to come back and be a coach here at Indiana University. They didn’t have to do that but they did. So I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Miss D and all the front office and medical and trainers, everybody in that Knick organization is first class and I have them to thank for me standing here today, so thank you.
I’d like to thank the Ferguson family, Steve and his whole family because he’s been a major mentor in my life; the Cook family, Bill who is no longer with us, known him for many, many years, and he was one of my early mentors, he and Gale Cook and Carl, just a beautiful family.
Nancy Cross who lives here in town, I know she’s happy that I’m back.
Bob Hammel. We go a long way back.
I said I wasn’t going to get sensitive, but boy, this is a great day for Mike Woodson and his family, and it’s a great day for the fans and Hoosier Nation, I think. Because it’s going to be my job to bridge the gap between young people who don’t know who coach Woodson is and the old-timers who don’t know who I am. I’m going to bring all the old-timers back like the old days, and we going to bridge the gap between old and new. At the end of the day, it’s about two people or two things, and that’s the fans and our basketball program and our players. Our players will be first and foremost. I spoke to the guys last night, and I think they understand who Coach Woodson is early on because I’ve told them that this whole program is going to be about family.
And being about family, there’s a lot of things that come with that. You know, they are looking for me to get them where they need to go, and I’m looking at them to get Indiana Basketball where it needs to go, and that’s going to be huge because I’m a coach that push and grab and I try to get the most out of my players. And that word “accountability” is so important when you look at players and you talk about coaching. I’m going to meet with each player individually today and see where their heart and mind are and talk about moving this program in the right direction, and that’s getting it back on top. That’s why I’m here. I’m excited about being here.
Scott, you just have no idea. This is a wonderful day. With that being said, and I’m sure I missed some people that I need to thank, but they know who they are. I appreciate all the support I’ve got over the years, and all the old-timers, the ex-players that played here, hey, I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from you guys reaching out and trust me, time comes, I’ll return the calls. But I appreciate the support, I really do.
With that said, I will hope the floor up for questions. So here we go.
Q. What do you think the biggest challenges are that you face?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, it’s always been my goal, when I was doing my thing in the NBA as a head coach, I think the timing when the jobs opened up here were not in my favor because I had a job. I never really tried to pursue it but one time, and I didn’t get the job and I went back to my NBA world where I remained until yesterday when Jim Dolan gave me the opportunity to get on a plane and come here for the job.
I’ve watched Indiana Basketball all my life from afar, even though the 30 years that I’ve spent, plus, in the NBA, I was always glued to Indiana Basketball. That never changed. It’s a big part of my life.
So you know, we had our ups and downs over the years. I get that. But I’ve always been true to Indiana Basketball. So to be able to circle back and give it another shot and trying to come back as the head coach, this time I was able to get it done.
Q. Are you concerned about your lack of college basketball experience?
MIKE WOODSON: Not at all. To me basketball is basketball. Sure, I’ve never coached in college, but I’d like to think that I’ve coached at the highest level and I’ve coached some of the greatest players that have ever graced the basketball world.
The NBA family is a beautiful thing, guys. And I’ve been fortunate to be part of that for 30-plus years.
Yes, there are going to be some challenges, me coming back here to coach this great university and this basketball team. But at the end of the day, coaching is coaching. I’ve got to get players, go out and recruit quality student-athletes that can come in here and help this program move in the right direction. I’ve got to groom these young men to be men on and off the floor. That’s what it’s all about. Somebody took a chance, like I said earlier on me, that I turned out just fine.
So there will be challenges, but I’m going to try to surround myself with people that can help me navigate some of the challenges.
But at the end of the day, I’ve got to put a product on the floor that Hoosier fans will love from a defensive standpoint and from an offensive standpoint in terms of winning basketball games. I’ve got to teach and develop players. That’s the only way it’s going to get done in terms of building a program to win.
Q. You mentioned bridging the gap. This will be the first time, if you were talking to a prospect right now, what would your message be?
MIKE WOODSON: It wouldn’t be my first time recruiting, first time recruiting in college. We recruit all the time in the NBA. The one year I coached the Atlanta Hawks when I was given that job, I had the youngest team in the history of the game and they were all recruits from the college game where you had to go out and do background checks, medical checks, all kind of things in terms of bringing a player in that you think that can help build your program.
So we’re not new to recruiting, free agency. You’ve got to go out and recruit. But we’re recruiting younger people now and I get that. And I remember when Coach came in to recruit me, all those things come into play.
Yeah, I’ve been far removed from it, but I honestly believe I can go in a kid’s home and be able to relate because of what I’ve gone through in my career. And I have a story to tell, I do. If that kid is willing to listen and he buys into my story, I think I can get him to come to Indiana University. Yeah, recruiting is hard because you have a lot of coaching out there trying to recruit the best talent to help their respective teams win basketball games. I’m going to be in that same pool, and I’m going to go out and try to do it the right way and we’ll do it the right way, and we’ll win the right way once I get quality kids here that I think can help us win basketball games.
Q. Do you have staff members in mind and what are you prioritizing with your assistant coach hires?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, yes, I have staff people in mind and I will sit down with Scott and Thad and assess some of the coaches. I’m getting all kind of calls from friends and coaches that want to come and help me, and I have my list of coaches that I think can help me.
So we will collaborate together and figure out what’s good for Mike Woodson and the Indiana University program moving forward.
Coaching is important. I think you’ve got to put people around you that you trust. People around you that’s willing to work hard. That’s what I’ve done in my two stops as an NBA head coach. I try to put people that are going to work and be loyal and help me to develop young players that are going to be good basketball players and good people off the floor.
Q. Can you explain to everyone why it is important to have the former players at IU be part of the current program and how that impacts the current players?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, it impacts it in a huge way. All I can talk about is the days when Coach Knight was here and how you know, he had everybody come back every year, and that was a beautiful reunion, man. I miss those days. And I’m going to bring those days back because I think it’s important. A lot of these old-timers, they probably look at me as an old-timer. We laid the groundwork for where we are today and those players should never, ever be forgotten and in my heart they won’t ever be forgotten.
So I will bring them all back and bridge this gap that’s so desperately needed why the young players and the young fan base that we do have, a lot of these young fan base, they don’t know who I am and I get that. My daughters kind of remind me of that.
But at the end of the day, I’ve been chosen to be the coach here and I’m going to try to tie it all together to make it all work, and we all be one big family and win basketball games.
Q. What will your message be to the players as you sit down with them?
MIKE WOODSON: Moving forward, we have a few players that have entered the portal, players that I think can help us win basketball game games next season. My first job is to sit down with each one of them and talk about staying in Hoosier Nation. You know, that’s what’s important. And if I got to plead and beg a little bit to keep them here, I’m going to do that.
But again they have got to make the final decision on what they want to do, but there’s no better place in the country to play basketball I think. That’s what I’m going to relay to them and let them know that I’m in their corner, that we’re family. I’m always going to have an open-door policy where they can come in and talk to coach Woodson. I’ve never strayed from that over the years. There’s a lot that I have to do once I leave this press conference in terms of sitting down with each individual player and having a pow-wow with them and see where their heart is.
Q. Did you know Thad well before this and what do you envision his role being with the program?
MIKE WOODSON: I’ve always watched Thad from afar. Thad has had major success in the Big Ten as a head coach, the 13 years he coached Ohio State, and I had my battles with Herb Williams who was a great Ohio State player and who worked for me in New York so we always go around about with one another during the Big Ten season. So yeah, I’ve watched Thad from afar. This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to sit and talk with Thad.
Again, great basketball mind. My ego has always been intact in terms of being able to accept great basketball minds and what they are thinking. I think that’s healthy from a coaching standpoint and I think it can’t do anything but help me as I move up the road and try to build this basketball team. I’m grateful that Thad is on board. Again we have to put a staff together and we’ll work towards that here in the next week or so.
Q. What vision do you have for the team and this program as far as style of play is concerned on offense and defense?
MIKE WOODSON: When I look at college basketball, a lot of it is they are taking things from our league now and their defense are switching defenses, a lot of zone, maybe three-quarter court or half-court or zone defenses.
Offensively, they are shooting a lot of threes like the NBA. So when I look at college basketball, and the fact that our game is starting to come this way in a major way, I think I can bring a system in that from a defensive standpoint where you know we can recruit players that are capable of playing three or four positions. That’s kind of how I did it in the pros. Players that if you did switch defensively, you felt good about them. The players guarding the ball and players that are committed to rebounding the basketball.
I think when you build a defensive system, if everybody is connected together and work hard to defend not only the ball but when there is a breakdown, and rebound the basketball as a unit, you put yourselves in position to win basketball games. The three-ball has changed the game, there’s no doubt about that. We have got to recruit players that can shoot the ball and pass and dribble be able to make plays for one another.
And in doing that, I think I can create an offense that everybody touches the basketball and if you can shoot the basketball, then your expected to shoot it and make shots. If you can’t shoot it, then you have to do other things to help us win basketball games. It’s my job to go out and put the best team positive I will on the floor that can do those things.
But the style has changed, like I said, and it’s a beautiful style. I don’t think you can always just live on shooting threes, but it’s great if you’ve got a team that can make it. We built a team in New York with Grunwald and Jim Dolan and myself where we brought in eight new players that season and all eight could shoot the three-ball and our core group was fabulous at shooting threes. We lead the league in threes taken, threes made and third in three-point percentage. That team ended up winning the division that year.
So the three-ball has changed the game and we have to find players that can make the three-ball, as well.
Q. Talk about adapting to talent year to year.
MIKE WOODSON: When I started off in Atlanta, I started off with 18-, 19-, 20-year-old men. I was realistic when I came into Atlanta because I just come off a title run in Detroit where we won an NBA title. I felt when I went to Atlanta that I could win an NBA tight that will year because I was on such a high and it just wasn’t realistic but I never sold those players on not making the playoffs. When you look back at that team, Josh Smith, Josh Childers, Royal Ivey, Dante Smith, Stoudamire, these are all young babies, and that ownership was fortunate enough to stick with me. They gave me the resources and opportunity to build is that team and three years later we were in the playoffs playing the Boston Celtics to a Game 7 who ended up winning the NBA title that year.
You know, basketball is funny but we just got to keep pushing and pushing players to do the right thing on and off the floor.
Q. Can you talk about growing up in Indianapolis, your child, family, high school career?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, you know, I’m from a major, big family of 12 brothers and sisters. I lost my parents at a very young age and I lost some siblings along the way.
But growing up in Indianapolis and playing the game of basketball, there just wasn’t a place you couldn’t go to get a basketball game in Indianapolis and the talent back then was just tremendous, man. I mean, I can go in every area of Indianapolis and play pick-up basketball game and play at a high level with great talent. I don’t know fits still that way today but it was loaded back then.
And everybody who played basketball, they always had their eyes on Indiana University or Purdue or Notre Dame but I always had my eyes on Indiana University and the basketball program, because it was so powerful at that time and every year you new Indiana was in position to do something special. That’s what I wanted to be a part of.
I remember my sixth grade teacher, which I couldn’t afford at that time to go to Bob Knight’s camp, pay for me to come down and I ended up winning a three-on-three contest that at Coach Knight’s camp with two other kids and Coach gave me a t-shirt and told me he would follow me my senior year in high school and that’s all I needed to hear. And I had a great senior year and he came knocking and I made a decision to come here and play basketball. It all started in Indianapolis growing up.
Q. How do you feel about the players you have inherited, do they fit the system that you want to play or do you want to craft a system to your players strengths?
MIKE WOODSON: I’ve watched a few games of the Hoosiers this year and they have had their ups and downs. I get it. The pandemic hasn’t helped sort of their psyche and way of thinking in terms of college life here on campus. But I’ve got to assess after going back today and I’ll go and watch more film, I’ve got to assess after speaking with these young men and get their feelings on this past season and what their thinking is on staying or they are leaving because some decisions have got to be made if they decide to leave. But I’m going to do my best, put my best foot forward to see that the guys I think can help us move forward in this program, that they stay on board.
But if not, then I’ve got to go to Plan B and probably go in the portal and try to find players that I think fits the system that can help us win basketball games here.
Q. NBA people have praised you for your player development skills with young guys in the league. Can you see that skill immediately helping you here at this level, too?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, it’s going to have to help me because I think when you get a younger player, there’s so much that that young player has to be taught and that’s on and off the floor. I harp on the off the floor thing so much because it goes hand-in-hand, academics and basketball, you can’t separate them.
But the development program and the development of individual players is vital, I don’t care what level it is and what sport it is. If you don’t develop, you struggle, I think, and over the years, all the teams in the NBA that I’ve worked with, we’ve been able to develop great players, man. And it takes time, but if the player is willing to accept coaching, because it’s demanding. I mean, it wasn’t easy for me and I turned out just fine and I’m going to push guys and I’m going to be demanding; that they work, come to the gym and put the time in, and I think if they do that, good things will happen, and then in the long run, we will all benefit from it from a basketball standpoint.
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