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Saturday, March 2, 2024

An open letter to the I.U. Nation 

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Danny Bridges
Danny Bridges

Dear I.U. Basketball diehards:

No one can ever doubt your sincere dedication to your school and the enthusiasm regarding the Men’s Basketball program.  

For decades you’ve faithfully flocked to Assembly Hall in Bloomington to offer the unconditional support that can only be described as both quite impressive and unparalleled. 

The flip side of that proverbial coin is that the compassion you carry quite often blinds you to the reality of the situation, which is clear to anyone that doesn’t live vicariously through the program and won’t accept the truth about the state of the hoops union in Monroe County. 

It’s no longer the mecca it was in the seventies and eighties under Bob Knight, and that’s a bitter pill for many of you to swallow. Couple that with the overall gross mismanagement of the athletic department and it’s way beyond the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be, and that truth doesn’t sit well with the vast majority of you good folks.

That brings us to the coaching carousel that has been nothing more than a revolving door since Knight was finally appropriately jettisoned in 2000, and your impatience with the man currently at the helm of your beloved and troubled team.

Michael Dean Woodson knew exactly what he was getting in to when he took the ridiculously highly scrutinized job at Indiana.

He probably never envisioned finishing his coach career at his alma mater, but when his good friend and I.U. Board of Trustees Chairman Quinn Buckner finally convinced Athletic Director Scott Dolson that Woodson was the coach they needed (note the word they) he was handed the keys to a program that was sputtering like an old jalopy.

Coaching basketball at Indiana is arguably one of the most impossible jobs in College Basketball today, with a ton of unrealistic expectations from a fan base that’s largely out of touch in terms of what the game has become today. And then there’s the undisputable fact that the once proud program is no longer a desired destination for legit blue chip athletes who really could care less about the NCAA Tournament Championship banner they won in 1987.

If you don’t have a calculator that’s a “mere” thirty-seven years ago and carries zero impact when attempting to recruit traditionally or plucking fruit from the transfer portal. Combine that with the fact that there isn’t exactly a plethora of NIL money surrounding the program, and it doesn’t come close to being a desirable location for any player that can truly make an impact. 

Woodson knew the landscape when he took a job that requires more than just thick skin, and he set out to make his mark and enforce it. He wisely convinced Trayce Jackson-Davis that he wasn’t ready for the NBA and set out to reestablish some resemblance of teamwork and commitment to the program that had been lacking for shall we say, a rather long period of time.

It hasn’t been easy for him with the unrealistic expectations that surrounds a program that was totally irrelevant upon his arrival but to date the overall status of hoops in Knightland is in better shape than it was than when he accepted this impossible job.

With a 58-35 record that is obviously unacceptable to those who know nothing about the extent of the mess he inherited, Woodson has produced a back-to-back return to the coveted NCAA Tournament and received a bump in pay last year as a result of what is expected as a bare minimum at “Ole I.U.”

While Indiana has struggled mightily this season and is not bound for any type of glory in the immediate future, the naysayers have certainly already began the hate campaign that they feel will lead to the exodus of Woodson, who in my opinion has done a respectable job in establishing some sense of reasonable order to a program that was in the toilet when he agreed to pilot it.

Mike Woodson much to the chagrin of many, will not be fired in the off-season and unless he decides to quit, will be back next year to continue his quest to restore the shangri-la that is I.U. Basketball to respectability. 

He’s a man of integrity and certainly doesn’t need the aggravation he’s experiencing at this juncture of his career, but obviously none of that matters to those who are openly calling for his resignation as we speak. 

The recent so called rather embarrassing home loss to Penn State and subsequent comeback victory at Ohio State aside, it’s time for those calling the shots to understand what the program is really all about today, and embrace their coach as opposed to reopening the revolving door he proudly entered when called upon to lead this once stored but now deeply flawed program.

Mike Woodson isn’t the problem at Indiana University but more than likely he’ll be their next scapegoat, and that’s both a shame as well as a clear snapshot as to what it takes to stomach I.U. hoops today.

Danny Bridges, who thinks Coach Woodson just may have the last laugh regarding this debacle, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Pretty sure IU is second in the conference in NIL money only to Illinois.

    Also, I would hardly call the coaching situation a “revolving door.” Two coaches make up 15 seasons in the 24 since Coach Knight was fired. One of the others would still be here if he didn’t do the thing which has basically been legal since he got in trouble. Archie had his chance, and Coach Woodson will have his.

    He has thus far underperformed. Please ask opposing Big Ten coaches what they would do to have a TJD, Hood-Schifino, Race, Galloway, Reneau, Ware on their teams. He has won 2 (if you’re being generous because one was a play-in) tournament games with a Top 5 IU player all time.

    What this program is about is one of the best arenas, fan bases in one of the 2 premier conferences geographically located in one of the recruiting hot beds in the country. That’s not nothing. The fans didn’t plant the seeds of 30 years of mediocrity, that was done by the leadership of the athletic department.

    Coach Woodson’s flaws have been on display since day 1, but there isn’t an IU fan out there that doesn’t want it to work. He’s an all-timer. I hope he gets figured out, but he was handed the talent to win and so far hasn’t shown that he can consistently do it. We watch the games.

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