In Lexington, Sean Woods is part of a group known as “The Unforgettables”. The 1991-92 Wildcats team coached by Rick Pitino was headlined by actual star Jamal Mashburn, but Woods, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphry and Richie Farmer were so well-loved by Big Blue fans that they had their jerseys retired as well.
Of course, it’s one thing to be Unforgettable in Lexington, and quite another to be remembered in the vast world of DI basketball. Since 2008, Woods has been the head coach of Mississippi Valley State, a seldom-seen SWAC program. He and his team struggled through a slow learning curve, enduring seasons of seven, nine and thirteen wins before winning 21 games and an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament last season. Even that feat may not have lodged Woods’ name in the minds of many hoops fans.
One school in his old stomping grounds took notice, however. The Morehead State Eagles (best known for knocking Pitino’s Cards out of the 2011 tourney) are bringing Woods back to the Commonwealth to replace Donnie Tyndall, who is… going to Mississippi to coach in C-USA.
Kentucky television station WKYT reported Woods’ hiring this evening:
Morehead State athletic director Brian Hutchinson said tonight he was excited about hiring Woods. Hutchinson said, “He did a magnificent job at Mississippi Valley State, we feel fortunate to give him the opportunity at Morehead State. He has passion, energy, a good basketball mind and people think highly of him. Sean is the right guy for us. We were sorry to lose Donnie Tyndall but Sean gives us the best opportunity to build on what we’ve done.”
Whether Woods can win at Morehead remains to be seen, but his name precedes him in a state where Unforgettable really means something.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.