Video, Quotes: Mike Woodson at NCAA tournament first round media availability

  • 03/16/2023 3:44 pm in

Mike Woodson addressed the media on Thursday afternoon in advance of Friday’s NCAA tournament first round matchup against Kent State.

Watch the full press conference below:

Transcript via ASAP Sports:

THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us. We have Head Coach Mike Woodson here.

Q. Mike, you’ve referenced those early meetings with Trayce a lot in the last few months. Just how much it meant to you and how much that bond sort of grew in those first days when Trayce first committed to coming back after you got the job. Do you think about that more recognizing that wherever this journey ends ultimately, the finish line is in sight, whether it’s here, next weekend, the weekend after that?

MIKE WOODSON: All I can say to you, it’s been everything to our program. Had he left, to me it would have been just like starting all over again, being a first time coach. For him to make the commitment to come back, it really set the stage for where we are today because he didn’t have to do that. He could have left and went and did his own thing.

But it put us in a better position from a program standpoint, and he and I have been able to develop this relationship and help each other. Yes, it hasn’t been pretty all the time, but that’s a part of coaching.

I would be stupid to sit here and say that I don’t want the best for my players because I don’t think there’s a coach in the world that doesn’t want the best for his players. I only coach one way, and it’s hard for me to change. I push players to play at a high level. That’s important to me.

In doing that, you learn how to be a better basketball player. I have a track record for that. So I thought last season was a great season for him, and this season he’s kind of knocked it out of the park because we’ve rode him all the way to this point.

Q. Kent State ranks among the Top 20, Top 25 teams in the country in forcing turnovers. What’s the secret to you guys not letting them get going on that way and creating easy offense off their defense?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, every night that we play, even when we step on the practice floor, I’m always stressing take care of the basketball. The key to winning and beating any team, you have to defend and rebound the ball, and you can’t turn it over. If you do those three things, you’re going to put yourself in position to win. I don’t care who you play.

Kent State is a great team. They’re well coached. They’ve had a great season up until this point, just like we have. I don’t want to go home, and I’m sure his coach is saying the same thing, he doesn’t want to go home. I want to extend this season as long as we can for Trayce Jackson-Davis and the surrounding pieces because I think that they deserve that.

So in order to get that done, we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes when we step out on that floor tomorrow night and see what happens.

Q. Mike, all those years in the NBA, basically Friday night is another Game 7. The one-and-done aspect of this tournament, what changes for you this week in regards to preparation or what you might do during those 40 minutes knowing that it’s basically another Game 7?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s like do or die. You can’t get around it. And it’s the little things. I put on the board every game, “simple plays win basketball games”, and they do. You can’t over complicate things. You can’t change who you are.

We’ve won a lot of games with our defense this year, and when we’ve added some good offense with our defense, we’ve really, really been good. So tomorrow night, it’s not going to change. We’re playing a damn good basketball team, and we’ve got to come ready and committed, you know what I mean? Because you win, you go on, you lose, you go home, and have to deal with it over the summer and think about all the things you probably should have done to extend your season.

I’m not ready to go home, and I hope the players feel the same way.

Q. You understood the challenges of this job when you took it, but what are the challenges of building a program at a place where the expectations are so high and they really haven’t been met lately. How do you go about sort of incremental growth when everybody is sort of dying for a championship?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, this is not my first go-around. I built a couple of teams — the Hawks, the Knicks — and it’s no different here. Yes, expectations are high, and I knew that coming in. Hell, I played here. They should be high, and it’s okay.

I’m not a coach that’s ever run from a challenge. Yeah, there are always naysayers around you, but if I listen to that, man, I can’t do my job.

Indiana is a big time program. It’s been that way for years. I’m just trying to get them back on top, man. That’s all I care about. It’s not about Mike Woodson. It’s about the players that I coach and this program. That’s what means more to me than anything.

I don’t know how long I’m going to do this, but while I’m doing it, I’ve got to try to put my best foot forward to make sure that we can get back on top.

Q. We’re talking about Kent State’s defense a lot, but look at Sincere Carry, the kid can score. What is it about his game that translates so much, and how important is it to make sure you know where he is at all times on the court?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, it’s Carry, it’s Jacobs, it’s Thomas. They’ve got weapons all over the court. We’ve just got to be solid in what we do. Carry is kind of the guy that drives this team, and he does a lot of good things offensively in terms of getting the ball where it’s got to go, and he can score the basketball.

I don’t think you go into this game saying, hey, you’re just going to stop Carry — I mean, they’ve got some pieces that everybody’s got to be aware of, key match-ups all over the floor that we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes to defend. And then we’ve got to make them play us.

Q. Trayce has given you Player of the Year performance all year long, and Jalen Hood-Schifino has been very good. How important is it for you to get a third or fourth piece offensively that sort of gets up to the next level?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s very important. I think, as we continue this journey tomorrow, and Bates and Miller Kopp and Gallo and Geronimo, the guys that play, Malik, they’ve got to give us more. This tournament over the years has been driven by teams that three and four scorers, two or three guys that can make the long ball consistently.

We’ve been good at times in those areas because when Tamar Bates and Gallo and Geronimo and Malik are playing well and scoring the ball, it’s a deadly combination with our defense, and we’ve been damn good when we’ve been doing that.

So that’s how we’ve got to think going into this tournament. Everybody’s got to do their part. That’s how you advance. Only time will tell.

Q. To expound on Ralph’s question from before, how challenging has NIL made your job over the last two years? Did you ever envision it creating such a sea change throughout college basketball?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, we didn’t have this when I was in school. So for me, me being new at this, there’s a lot of moving pieces that I’m still trying to figure out as a coach.

But the NIL is what it is. It’s very challenging. I don’t deal with the NIL. We have outside people that run our NIL. And I like to think we’re sitting at the top when it comes to the NIL. Based on our support from our Indiana base, which is pretty damn good.

So by me saying we’re sitting at the top, it puts a lot of athletes in a good position when making a decision to come to Indiana University to play basketball or football or whatever sport it may be.

But that’s not what’s driving me. These players understand how I feel about the NIL. You’re going to come play for Mike Woodson, you’re going to have to come to school and get an education and play basketball, and NIL takes care of itself

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