Mike Woodson

Former Indiana men's basketball star Mike Woodson speaks during a news conference Monday introducing him as the Hoosiers' new coach.

BLOOMINGTON — New Indiana men’s basketball coach Mike Woodson received an endorsement from a person he considers one of his greatest mentors.

Former IU coach Bob Knight, who coached Woodson from 1976-80 when he played for the Hoosiers, released a statement though the school praising the hire of Woodson as head coach.

“We are all very pleased to have Mike Woodson as the person in charge of leading our program,” Knight said in a statement. “He will do an excellent job. He will be an outstanding disciplinarian and teacher working with his team. I’ve never known a better person than Mike. He is just a great man.”

The 80-year-old Knight has been in declining health but made an emotional return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in February 2020 as part of honoring the 40th anniversay of IU’s 1980 Big Ten title team. It was his first public return to the building since being fired by IU in 2000. Woodson was among former players who came back for the ceremony.

Woodson spoke with reverence of Knight during his introductory press conference as IU’s coach Monday.

“Coach Bob Knight, who means so much to Indiana Basketball, and he took a chance on a kid out of Indianapolis many years ago to come here and play basketball,” Woodson said. “And it was a journey for Mike Woodson. And coming to Indiana University to play basketball, he taught me how to play the game of basketball from a fundamental standpoint. He taught me how to be a man on and off the floor. And that was huge for me coming out of the inner cities of Indianapolis.

“So I pay tribute to Coach Knight in the utmost way because Indiana Basketball will always be Bob Knight. Will always be.”

Woodson also relayed a story about attending one of Knight’s basketball camps at IU when he was in sixth grade. He couldn’t afford to pay the entry free, so a teacher from his school paid it for him.

“I ended up winning a three-on-three contest at Coach Knight’s camp with two other kids, and coach gave me a T-shirt and told me he would follow me my senior year in high school, and that’s all I needed to hear,” Woodson said. “And I had a great senior year, and he came knocking, and I made a decision to come here and play basketball. It all started in Indianapolis growing up.”

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