Mike Woodson presents rebuilding vision to get Indiana on track

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Woodson has a plan to revive Indiana basketball.

He wants former players involved. He hopes to blend traditional college philosophies with NBA concepts. And he promises to focus on player development.

It’s a combination that may finally satisfy Hoosiers fans. One day after Woodson left the New York Knicks to take the coaching job at his alma mater, Woodson provided a glimpse into his long-term vision.

“I’ve never coached in college, but I like to think I’ve coached at the highest level and I’ve coached some of the greatest that ever graced the basketball court,” Woodson said during Monday’s video call. “Yes, there are going to be some challenges for me. But at the end of the day, coaching is coaching and I’ve got to get players, recruit quality student-athletes and get players who can come in here and help this program move in the right direction.”

Woodson certainly has an appealing background to those with NBA aspirations.

After playing for coach Bob Knight and finishing his college career as Indiana’s second 2,000-point scorer, he played 11 seasons in the NBA before moving into coaching. Woodson spent four decades on NBA sidelines, going 315-365 in nine seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and the Knicks, winning an NBA title as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons and mentoring more than two dozen All-Stars.

Woodson said he believes his experiences in free agency will help with the transition to college recruiting and athletic director Scott Dolson believes Woodson’s professional roots also may be an attractive feature.

“I had someone I really, really respect in basketball say to me, `We need someone that’s a normal person, we need him to fit in and collaborate and be part of a team,”‘ Dolson said, explaining what he heard from the people he spoke with during the two-week search. “Mike is known as a visionary. He’s an X’s and O’s guy. Circles of people at the highest level that I talked to talked about his visionary pick-and-roll defense that he started in Atlanta that became the normal way for defenses.”

The 63-year-old Woodson is the first former Knight player hired as coach and the second to lead the program. Dan Dakich was interim coach for seven games in 2008 following Kelvin Sampson’s resignation.

Woodson also is the third minority hire in program history following Mike Davis, Knight’s successor in 2000, and Sampson, who is Native American. Woodson also will be the 14th Black coach at a school in the Power Five leagues or Big East.

Having grown up in Indianapolis, having attended Knight’s camp as a child and having his college career bookended by two of Knight’s three national titles, Woodson understands some of fans’ long-standing complaints.

“If you don’t develop (players), you struggle,” he said. “All the teams I’ve worked with, we’ve been able to develop great players. It takes time. I’m going to push guys, I’m going to be demanding that they work, that they come to the gym and put time in and I think if they do that good things will happen.”

First, though, Woodson must figure out next season’s roster.

Six players are already in the transfer portal and although Indiana’s top player, Trayce Jackson-Davis, isn’t one of them, the conventional wisdom suggests he is a future NBA player.

Woodson met with the team Sunday night and was scheduled to meet with players individually Monday.

“We have a few players who have entered the portal, players I think can help us win basketball games next season,”‘ Woodson said. “My first job is to sit down with each and every one of them about staying in Hoosier Nation. If I have to beg and plead a little bit then to keep them here then I’m going to do that.”

Still, Woodson knows what he wants Indiana basketball to look like and how he wants to rebuild this blue-blood program that hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016 and hasn’t won a national championship since 1987.

“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. I’m going to bring back all the old-timers back just like the old days and we’re going to bridge the gap between old and new,” Woodson said. “The players are looking for me to get them where they need to go, and I’m looking for them to get Indiana basketball where it needs to go.”

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

1 Comment

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

Getty Images

TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

Getty Images
1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.