Almost one year ago, longtime NBA head coach Doc Rivers had something on his mind to begin his pre-game talk with reporters while the Philadelphia 76ers were in Indianapolis.
“We’re gonna talk about Mike Woodson first and the job he did here in Indiana was phenomenal,” he said with a smile. “OK, now we can go ahead. I just had to throw that in.”
Woodson, a native of Indianapolis, had just guided Indiana University to the NCAA Tournament in his first year as head coach at his alma mater. Now a year later, they had just beat Kent State to advance to the Round of 32.
And Rivers is still following, as close as someone can when having 12 of their first 15 games in March on the road.
“Oh yeah, we text back and forth,” he said on Saturday, prior to the 76ers’ win over the Pacers. “And Armond Hill (Director of Basketball Administration) from my staff is on his staff as well, so it’s really cool to watch. That game (Friday), you get up and then I was a little worried for a minute. But they’re good, man. I love what he’s done. He’s returned the pride back and you can see it, so I’m very happy for him.”
IU is now 23-11 this season with fifth-seeded University of Miami up next, set for 8:40 p.m. ET on Sunday (on TNT).
Earlier this season, IU favorite Victor Oladipo spoke highly of his squad during his last visit to Indy on Dec. 12 with the Miami Heat. He raved about the school and what they’re building under Woodson. At the time, IU was 8-2 and ranked inside the top 25 nationally.
“I think we have a good team over there,” Oladipo said. “People might think I’m biased, obviously, but it is what it is. I don’t really care. Them boys can be really good, like really, really special. They got to understand one thing: it’s not always going to perfect, it’s not always going to go the way you want it to. But it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.
“They just got to continue to keep getting better rand then when it’s time to really turn it up, they’ll be ready.”
For the first few non-conference games to start the 2022-23 season, IU’s hype video at Assembly Hall included video of Oladipo from a previous visit.
Oladipo, 30, says he’s only spoken with Woodson a few times since he became IU’s head coach, but he highlighted some of what made that hire work.
“He was in the NBA before he went back to IU so I understand his method of thinking and his method of coaching,” Oladipo continued. “And one thing about it is he wants to win. He wanted to win here and he wants to win there. When you have a coach like that, who has tradition, who has all those things that go into winning, it’s hard not to win. It’s hard not to be successful.
“IU, I tell people all the time because people ask me when I got off the plane, ‘how was it going to IU?’ I said, ‘man, IU is a sexy school.’ It’s a sexy school, I love it. When you add that with the education that comes with it, with the culture that comes with it, with the tradition that comes with it — plus Mike Woodson and coaching? It’s hard for a kid to say no. It’s a bright, bright future there.”
You can watch Oladipo’s full comments in the video below:
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