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A simple question of ‘Do you know coach Knight?’ leads to Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson landing his first coaching job 



Bob Knight, Mike Woodson
Mike Woodson shares story of how Bob Knight helped him land his first coaching job (Photo Credit: Indiana Athletics)

The first edition of Inside Indiana Basketball with Mike Woodson kicked off on Monday where the head coach of the Hoosiers recapped the UIndy exhibition game plus talked about the upcoming season and what fans can expect from his Indiana ball club. Among the topics that Mike Woodson and legendary Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer discussed on Monday night, Woodson shared a really fun and cool story about how he got into coaching in the early 1990s.

After playing nearly 11 years in the NBA, Mike Woodson would officially retire as a player after the 1990-1991 season. When telling the story, the Indiana basketball head coach said that he made frequent trips back to Bloomington working on getting his real estate business going. While doing that for a few years, Woodson said he was stuck in limbo trying to figure out what to do next.

During that unknown time, Woodson would randomly get a call from his former Kansas City Kings head coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons, who asked if Woodson could come out to Phoenix, Arizona and help out with the pre-draft NBA camps coaching the players that were hoping to make the NBA.

Woodson, at the time, had no intentions on getting into coaching long term and stated that the only reason he went out there, was for a chance to golf every day. However, Cotton Fitzsimmons would have other ideas for Woodson.

“He bamboozled me man…The only reason I went out, because he told me, oh, we can play golf every day,” Mike Woodson told Don Fischer. “So we get 30 minutes in to practice. And he says, well, Woody, I got a tee time at 12 o’clock. And I said, okay, well let’s go. He says, well, somebody’s gotta stay here and coach the team.”

“I was lost,” Mike Woodson added. “I was like, “The hell I’m going to do? These guys are looking at me like this guy don’t have a clue what he is doing, which I didn’t.”

Watch: Mike Woodson reacts to Indiana basketball’s win against UIndy 

After that crazy situation, Woodson would then decide to pursue coaching. He noted that the first three years of his coaching career, he coached out of his own pocket in the summer league out in Los Angeles, California coaching free agents that would play the NBA teams.

That is where former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Chris Ford discovered him, who would eventually give Woodson his first job. Before Woodson was able to officially land a coaching job with Chris Ford’s Bucks however, he would need to meet with then Bucks’ owner Herb Kohl for dinner.

Little did Mike Woodson know at the time, legendary Indiana basketball head coach Bob Knight would once again help him find success and achieve a goal.

During that dinner, Herb Kohl would ask a simple but surprising question to Mike Woodson: “Do you know coach Knight?”

Woodson, who thought is was a joke question, said with a surprised tone “Yeah I know coach Knight?!”

Herb Khol, who was a big University of Wisconsin donor and someone who had always been intrigued by coach Knight, made a deal with Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson that if he was able to setup a coach between Khol and Bob Knight, he would have a job.

“I called him (Bob Knight) and said, ‘Hey man, you gotta make this phone call for me.’ The next morning I have the job as assistant coach in Milwaukee,” Woodson said.

The rest, as they say, was history. From that point on, Mike Woodson has been one of the more successful and respected head coaches in both the NBA and college basketball.

SEE ALSO: Indiana Basketball: Key notes and quotes from the Mike Woodson radio show

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.