In an interview on The Coaching Ladder in Twitter Spaces, Indiana basketball Assistant Coach, Kenya Hunter, talks about how impressed he was by the nuances that Mike Woodson brought to the Hoosiers on defense last season.
Coach Kenya Hunter has been instrumental in the Indiana basketball success both on the court and in the recruiting department, and its no secret because he showed his importance once Archie Miller was fired in 2020 and Hunter thought he might’ve been out the door with the next head coach coming in.
"“It was a tough time. I got some confidence once that happened, I was retained before Coach Woodson was hired, I was retained to stay on staff. I had multiple conversations with the AD, Scott Dolson, who wanted me to give them an opportunity to hire the person that they were going to hire before I made a decision.”—“I was able to have an interview with Coach Woodson, and the interview went well. He didn’t know who I was and he just went on the information that he received from different people in the business that he knows and he decided to keep me on staff.”"
Though he was ultimately retained and welcomed with open arms by Mike Woodson and the Indiana basketball program, Hunter mentions how he even went on an interview at Louisville to be an assistant under Chris Mack, looking out for his best interest. From this conversation with The Coaching Ladder host, Mike Mannix, Coach Hunter sold himself on his recruiting abilities and relationships that he has, not only with guys outside of the program, but players and families that were with the Hoosiers before Woodson joined, and helped him keep the roster intact as they were trying to build something special in Bloomington from the start.
Coach Hunter also mentions how he has the experience on the college hoops side of things while Mike Woodson is coming from the NBA, which is such a different style of play and coaching, which helped give Woodson the confidence to rely on Hunter to guide him through the adjustments.
Without spoiling the whole interview, one story that made me grin from ear to ear about Woodson and his attitude about giving confidence to his players was one that Hunter says, “he tells to every recruit”. Woodson implored that he wanted his four-man, Race Thompson to be able to handle the ball against the press and bring it up, just like his guards that should have the best ball-handling skills on the team. That just flows over to everything else he wants to ignite in his players. Basically, have the confidence to do anything on the floor at any given time. One example is clear as day, as Race Thompson attempted 28 total three-pointers in his first three seasons at Indiana. In his first season with Mike Woodson at the helm and giving him the confidence, Thompson attempted 55 three-pointers, and though it didn’t turn into much of a success, only making 15 total threes, it adds another element to Indiana basketball’s offense that has been missing for quite some time.
When asked about what is different about Coach Woodson and what he has brought from his time in the NBA, Coach Kenya Hunter had nothing but praise:
"“The number one thing was his defensive philosophy and principles were so different. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in this past season.”—“We wanted to have the best defensive team in the Big Ten, then, even in his first year, we were able to accomplish that.”"
As excited as I am about this upcoming season, listening to this interview with Assistant Coach Kenya Hunter somehow fired me up even more and it’s worth the 40 minutes to sit down and listen. Check it out HERE.