Onus is on Mike Woodson to make it work at Indiana after Hoosiers spent millions to replace Archie Miller


After Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens told the entire world — multiple times — that he had no interest in being the next coach at Indiana, the name “Juwan Howard” kept coming up over and again.

Juwan Howard. Juwan Howard. Juwan Howard.

Every other person with whom I spoke in recent days suggested Indiana might ultimately decide to just do exactly what Michigan did a couple of years ago: hire an alumnus to run the program. Why? Because, man, look at how Juwan Howard is killing it at his alma mater!

So, with that in mind, it wasn’t too surprising Sunday when a source confirmed that Indiana is indeed hiring former Hoosiers star Mike Woodson as its next coach. The school subsequently confirmed the news.

Predictably, the announcement was met with lots of understandable skepticism. Indiana fans can be optimistic now, if they want — and really, what’s the point of being anything other than that? — but here’s the truth: If you would’ve told them two weeks ago that IU was about to pay $10 million to make Archie Miller go away, six players would enter the transfer portal (including three of the top four scorers), and 63 year-old Mike Woodson (who spent nine seasons as an NBA coach but has never worked on a college campus) would be the man pegged to come in and make everything great again, the response would not have been pretty.

That’s inarguable.

But this is also the truth: Who really knows how it’ll actually go?

I was firmly in the camp that Miller was a fantastic hire for Indiana — and I was wrong. So I have no interest in telling you I’m certain how this will unfold. That said, as I wrote last week, it’s still reasonable to wonder whether paying $10 million to blow up your program — instead of just letting Miller bring back most of the best pieces from a top-50 KenPom team and seeing if next season might be a breakthrough — could end up being a net-negative. And it could definitely end up being a net-negative. At best, it’s likely a setback. But regardless of the short-term damage or long-term outcome, Indiana simply decided it would rather gamble on the next thing than stick with someone it no longer believed in.

So here we are.

It’s worth noting that Indiana’s decision to hire Woodson came with an addendum. The Hoosiers are also bringing in former Ohio State coach Thad Matta as an associate athletic director for basketball to serve in an advisory role to Woodson. That’s clearly a good decision, one that should offset some of Woodson’s lack of experience at the collegiate level. However, whether this is ultimately a success or failure will be determined not by the new associate AD but by the new coach.

It’s on Woodson to get this done.

If he is to be for Indiana what Howard has already become for Michigan, the first thing Woodson must do is follow Howard’s lead and hire a great staff. Then he needs to convince Trayce Jackson-Davis to stay, talk some Indiana players out of the transfer portal, convince non-Indiana players in the portal to play for the Hoosiers and just generally build the roster in a way that inspires.

If Woodson can do that, this might work. If he can’t, it probably won’t.

Either way, I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Once again, Indiana has a new coach. Once again, it’s not Brad Stevens. And now we all get to see whether Indiana paying $10 million to rid itself of Archie Miller turns out to be a smart move or just more money poorly spent.

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