College - Indiana
Mike Woodson wasted no time in putting his stamp on the Knickerbockers.
Named interim head coach on Mar. 14, 2012, his Knicks squad responded with an 18-6 record for the remainder of the season, nailing down its second straight NBA Playoff berth. A Knicks team that had been averaging 96.5 points allowed brought that figure down a full five points during Woody’s tenure to 91.5 points allowed during his 24-game stretch.
The Knicks’ performance over those final hectic weeks earned Woodson a multi-year extension as head coach on May 25, 2012. Currently in his second season in New York and 16th campaign as an NBA coach, an entire city waits to see what happens next for Woodson and his team.
“I’m excited about the Knicks giving me the opportunity to come back and hopefully try to complete the job that I started,” says the 54-year old Woodson, the 25th head coach in Knicks franchise history. “That’s what it’s all about. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season and getting a full training camp under our belt with our whole ballclub. We’ve added some pieces, pieces that I think can help us in the long run. I couldn’t be more excited.
“I know the expectations are always higher in New York, and as I’ve said a number of times, that’s how it should be. I’ve expressed to the players that that’s the only way you should want it. It isn’t pressure or anything like that if you go into a season expecting to win, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to push guys to try and win and play at a high level, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Owner of a long and distinguished NBA coaching record, Woodson originally joined the Knicks as an assistant coach on Aug. 29, 2011, a little more than three decades after his NBA journey began as a Knicks rookie in 1980. He owns a 224-292 (.434) career won-loss mark in seven seasons as an NBA head coach (six with Atlanta, one with New York).
“Woody has taken the years of experience that he’s garnered as a player and a coach and formulated an idea of what it takes to win in the NBA,” says Executive Vice President and General Manager Glen Grunwald. “He’s able to communicate that and motivate players to play the way he knows they need to in order to be successful. He’s got a very good way about him. He’s firm yet friendly. He’ll get the best out of the players while maintaining good relations and their respect.”
A constant theme that emerges from Woodson and his coaching philosophy is summed up in one word - accountability. It’s something he demands from each of those under his leadership.
“It’s very important, and I say that because I know that when they look at me as the head coach, they’re going to hold me accountable for what I do,” says Mike. “And the fans and the media, when things don’t go right, they’re going to point the finger at me, and that’s okay. I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve been around long enough to know the dynamics of it. Sometimes players don’t understand what accountability is, they just don’t. They take their craft for granted sometimes. And it’s not always that way. In order to win an NBA title, you’ve got to go through some ups and downs, you’ve got to be a little lucky, you’ve got to stay away from injuries, come together and play like a team.
“There are a lot of things that have got to happen. But if you hold everybody accountable to do their job, their part, then you’ve got a better chance of winning.”
Woodson joined the Knicks staff following six seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks (2004-05 through 2009-10), over which he compiled a 206-286 (.419) record. He guided the Hawks to the NBA Playoffs in each of his last three seasons (including 2007-08, ending Atlanta’s eight-year Playoff drought), and into the Eastern Conference Semifinals in his last two seasons.
The Hawks increased their win total in each of Woodson’s six seasons in Atlanta, going from 13-59 in 2004-05 to 53-29 in 2009-10. Woodson’s 206 career wins are fourth-best in Hawks franchise history, trailing only Richie Guerin (327), Mike Fratello (324) and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens (310).
Before joining the Hawks, Woodson served for one season (2003-04) as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons, where he was one of the chief architects behind Detroit’s suffocating defense that helped the Pistons to the 2004 NBA Title. The Pistons held their opponents to 84.3 points per game during their championship season, then held the Lakers to 16 points below their regular season average in the NBA Finals in stunning Los Angeles, 4-1, for the title.
Prior to his six years at the helm of the Hawks, Woodson logged eight seasons as an assistant coach with Milwaukee (1996-97 through 1998-99), Cleveland (1999-2000 through 2000-01), Philadelphia (2001-02 through 2002-03) and Detroit (2003-04).
Woodson enjoyed an 11-year NBA playing career, averaging 14.0 ppg over 786 games for the Knicks (1980-81), New Jersey (1981-82), Kansas City/Sacramento (1981-82 through 1985-86), the LA Clippers (1986-87 through 1987-88), Houston (1988-89 through 1990-91) and Cleveland (1990-91). He scored a career-high 18.2 ppg with Kansas City in 1982-83, and posted 18.0 ppg with the Clippers in 1987-88. Mike also averaged 12.2 ppg in 13 career Playoff games over five post-seasons.
Mike’s NBA playing career began in 1980-81, when he averaged 4.7 points over 11.7 minutes in 81 contests with the Knicks. In his first and only season in New York, he helped the Knicks to a 50-win season and a Playoff berth under Hall of Fame coach Red Holzman. As New York’s first-round pick (12th overall) in the 1980 NBA Draft, he graced the cover of the Knicks’ 1980-81 media guide along with Holzman and teammates Bill Cartwright and Micheal Ray Richardson.
Prior to being drafted by New York, Woodson had a standout four-year career at Indiana University under Bob Knight where he was a two-time All-American, averaging 19.8 points in 104 career games with the Hoosiers. Woodson led IU to the 1979 NIT Championship and overcame back surgery in 1980 to earn Big Ten Most Valuable Player honors in leading the Hoosiers to the 1980 Big Ten title.
Knight’s influence proved to be a main factor in Woodson’s coaching career.
“Bob Knight, I think, somewhat set the table for me,” says Mike. “I didn’t know if I really wanted to coach, but then I watched my high school coach, Bill Smith [currently a member of Woody’s staff in New York], along with Knight, and they were the coaches who prepared me for working with the pros. They were always prepared, prepared for practice and prepared for whenever they stepped on the court for a game. That kind of lingers in the back of your mind for many years. When I decided to start coaching, that Bill Smith and Bob Knight experience entered my mind.”
Born on Mar. 24, 1958 in Indianapolis, Woodson attended Broad Ripple HS, whose alumni include David Letterman. Broad Ripple retired Mike’s uniform number in 2006. Mike and his wife Terri have two daughters, Alexis (22) and Mariah (21), both students at Georgia Tech. The Woodson family makes its off-season home in Atlanta.