Now in the midst of his 3rd season running the show at his alma mater, Mike Woodson has led the Indiana Hoosiers to a cumulative record of 55-30 following the team's hard fought victory over Ohio State this weekend. When Woodie came into the fold following the 2020-2021 season, he was tasked with cleaning up his predecessor Archie Miller's mess in Bloomington. And while the team has not made any major NCAA title pushes in his brief tenure thus far, they have certainly taken some steps forward under the guidance of their present shot caller.
With the team working through some early season injuries and issues with inconsistency, Woodson's level of frustration has been evident at various points during opening segments of the 2023-2024 campaign. More specifically, it has primarily been his perimeter players whom have produced the majority of their head coach's unease. While he was quick to honor his starting big men for shouldering a bulk of the load in the opening stretch, some pondered how his backcourt would respond to such blatant public criticism. Following the team's embarrassing loss recently at Nebraska, Woodson did not sugarcoat his feelings on the performance of his starting backcourt when pegging their play in that one as simply awful. In the follow-up game against the Buckeyes, those guys responded well. Trey Galloway may not have had the best night in terms of scoring (4 points on 2-8 shooting from the field), but he did continue his ongoing showcase of impressive table-setting and defensive activity with 7 assists and 2 steals. His senior starting partner on the perimeter Xavier Johnson was the X-factor in the game, finishing with 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 stocks. During the postgame media session, his head coach not only gave Johnson a lot of credit when asked about his performance over the weekend but also claimed the blame for his floor general's rusty return in Lincoln. That type of selfless gesture is something that could spark an increase in Johnson's desire to lead this team going forward.
Woodson demands a lot out of his players, but he always makes his love for them clear.
In doing so, he inspires his troops to go to war when on the floor. Take Malik Reneau for example. He was one of the returnees from last season's team whom Woodson challenged prior to the start of this season. Performances like his masterpiece against Kennesaw State illustrate Reneau's belief in his coach's demanding style of leadership. CJ Gunn's solid contributions against Ohio State were yet another case of these players buying into Woodson's approach.
The Hoosiers may not be among the nation's top teams thus far in 2023-2024, but they would almost certainly be worse off without Woodson at the helm. If he can continue to balance his tactics of constructive criticism and appreciation for players' positive responses to those public reprimands, the sky is the limit for where this program can go underneath Mike Woodson's wing looking ahead to the future.