Connect with us


‘I want to win now’: Mike Woodson is done accepting mediocracy. He’s ready to take Indiana basketball to new heights.



Mike Woodson, Indiana basketball
Mike Woodson preached 'urgency' and 'win now' mentality at Indiana basketball media day on Wednesday, setting a tone for the 2023-24 season. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There is a certain expectation and specific goals that the players and a coach should have when part of the Indiana basketball program. One of the most historically rich programs across the college basketball world, the brand of Indiana has greatly declined over the last decade. When Mike Woodson took over the program about two years ago, he knew in order to get the program back to what it needs to be, it starts with having lofty expectations.

His message in 2021? Win Big Ten and National Championships. Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon during Indiana basketball media day, and his message was the same, this time with a different tone.

“I took this job to win Big Ten titles and national titles and I’ve fallen short the first two years,” Woodson said. “I’m always optimistic as a coach when I go into a season. This season is no different. We’ve got to go and win a Big Ten title, and then once we’re fortunate to get into tournament play, then we figure it out there.”

Indiana is coming off of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. That was also the last time Indiana made the NCAA Tournament before Woodson returned to Bloomington.

Despite leading the team back to what should be the norm moving forward, it wasn’t good enough.

“I thought we put ourselves in pretty good position the last two years. In the tournament we were right there. I just didn’t get them over the hump, man, and that’s something that I live with every day of my life. Somehow I’ve got to get them over the hump. I’m the coach, and I’ve got to get them over the hump where we can hang another banner in here,” Woodson said. “I mean, that’s all I think about, man. I don’t think about any — it’s not about me. It’s about these student-athletes that I’ve fielded this year for our ballclub, and I’ve got to try to put them in the best position possible to be successful.”

Watch: Mike Woodson full Q&A at Indiana Basketball Media Day

Now, Indiana enters a new era — one without one of the all-time great players to put on the Indiana jersey, Trayce Jackson-Davis, and also Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jalen Hood-Schifino. In total, Woodson lost seven scholarship players from last season, either to the transfer portal or to the NBA/graduation. But, that doesn’t lower the expectations for what Woodson has for this season.

“There’s always urgency on my part. I mean, I want to win now. Yeah, losing Jalen and Trayce, that’s huge. But hell, it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play and be noticed and make a difference and help your team win basketball games, because that’s what it’s all about,” Woodson said. “I mean, I like our players that we’ve landed. It’s on me; I’ve got to coach them up and get them ready to play basketball. That’s what it’s all about.”

Woodson and Indiana reloaded this offseason. It had no choice. The sense of urgency to ‘win now’ is engrained in Woodson. Indiana went out and got former five-star center Kel’el Ware in the transfer portal. It landed five-star wing Mackenzie Mgbako in the spring, a late addition to the 2023 class. The Hoosiers added six players altogether to be part of the new Indiana roster.

Two major faces returning — and captains for the 2023-24 season — were sixth-year senior Xavier Johnson and fourth-year junior Trey Galloway. Two veteran guards who have played under Woodson and know the system inside and out. They also echo the same sentiment and message.

“Yeah, for sure. He’s all about winning, and that’s been the thing since day one when he got here,” Galloway said. “He wants to win and so do we, so it’s got to be everybody coming together and doing the right things every day and bringing our guys along so we can be successful and win.”

“I mean, buying into Coach Woodson. That’s the first thing,” Johnson added. “All those things were coachable. Listened to Coach Woodson what he had to say when he was coaching, just listened to everything that he told us, and that’s what a got of guys got to buy into, because a lot of guys come from different systems, and this is a major time for us as a team because we’ve got to come together right now. We can’t wait until November to come together.”

While winning now has always been the goal for Woodson, it has now became the standard for the new Indiana. It’s Indiana, there should be no reason to accept anything less. He’s made it known he won’t be accepting anything less and anyone that joins this program moving forward … well, it’s win and compete or move on.

“I like competition. That’s just my nature. That’s how I’ve been all my life as a player and coach,” Woodson said. “You can’t be scared of competition, man, or you’re in the wrong game.”

SEE ALSO: Takeaways from Indiana basketball 2023-24 schedule release

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN, Facebook and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. You can also listen to the Talking’ Bout the Hoosiers podcast on Spotify.

Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.