After four seasons of fielding one of the youngest teams in the NBA, you can understand the feeling of satisfaction as Hawks head coach Mike Woodson looks back on the 2007-08 campaign. To lead a franchise that was devoid of postseason competition for a then-league high eight years to the brink of one of the biggest upsets in postseason history, he has challenged his players to build on their accomplishment and make it back-to-back playoff appearances in 2008-09.
Woodson, who entered his Hawks coaching career as a rookie head coach, inherited a rebuilding situation that brought a lot of pain, heartache and long nights on the bench. While the wins were few and far between, he never stopped preaching and teaching his troops towards the ultimate goal – to become one of the 16 teams to make it to the playoffs and compete for the NBA championship.
Entering his fifth season, “Woody” is more determined than ever to make sure his team reaches that level again. At the end of the day he wants each of them to walk away knowing they have given their best each time they set foot on the court, and to become a better player for the experience.
Accustomed to postseason action prior to joining the Hawks, Woodson has reached the pinnacle of success before during his days as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons. In 2004-05, the Pistons won the franchise’s third NBA championship, defeating the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers, four games to one. Following a 37-45 record last year, Woodson’s Hawks played the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to a stirring, seven-game series in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
His days in Motown were the foundation for many of the coaching principles he attempts to instill within his players. Learning from Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, Woodson has continued to stress “doing things the right way” – working hard, putting the team first and dedicating themselves to becoming the best players they can be, as they work together to build a winning organization, on-and-off the court.
The 10th head coach in Hawks’ history, Woodson has a record of 106-222 (.323). For the third straight year, he coached Atlanta to a better record than the previous season, with a seven-win improvement in 2007-08. Atlanta’s 37 wins increased from 30 in 2006-07, 26 in 2005-06, and 13 victories in Woodson’s first season.
The 50-year-old Woodson has over two decades of NBA experience as a player and coach, and served three seasons as an assistant under Brown in both Philadelphia (2001-03) and Detroit. He also worked as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1999-01) and the Milwaukee Bucks (1996-99).
One of the chief architects behind the Pistons’ suffocating defensive effort during the 2003-04 season, Detroit held the opposition to 84.3 points per game that year, which equaled the league’s best total defensively (along with San Antonio). In addition, the Pistons’ point differential of +5.84 was the second-best in the NBA and they limited opponents to 41.4 field goal shooting, the league’s third-best performance. During their 23 postseason games, Detroit intensified their efforts defensively, holding teams to 80.7 ppg and 39.2 FG shooting, and in the five-game Finals series against Los Angeles, the Pistons kept the Lakers more than 16 points under their regular season average and hounded them into shooting 41 percent from the floor.
The 11-year veteran and 6-5 guard played for seven teams in the NBA after he was selected in the first round of the 1980 Draft by the New York Knicks with the 12th overall pick. In 786 career games, Woodson averaged 14.0 points (10.981 career points), 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 25.5 minutes, enjoying his best season in 1982-83 when he played for the then-Kansas City Kings and posted 18.2 points per game.
In addition to the Knicks and Kings (both in Kansas City and Sacramento), Woodson also played with New Jersey, the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston and Cleveland, before retiring from the game in 1991. His teams advanced to the playoffs five times, where he averaged 12.2 ppg, 2.6 apg and 2.3 rpg.
Drafted out of Indiana University, Woodson, in his junior season, helped lead the Hoosiers to the 1979 National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship with a 53-52 victory over conference rival Purdue and was named to the All-Tourney team.
During the summer of that year, he played for Bob Knight and captained the United States team that participated in the Pan American (Am) Games, joining teammates Isiah Thomas and Ray Tolbert in winning the gold medal.
A two-time All-American (1979 and 1980) and four-year letterman Woodson suffered a herniated disk in his back after five games (and a No. 1 ranking) into his senior campaign and had to undergo surgery. Upon losing Woodson, Indiana went 7-5 in the Big Ten, but once he returned, IU finished the conference season at 6-0 and captured the Big Ten title. Despite the limited action, Woodson took home the league’s 1980 MVP award.
The fifth-leading scorer in IU history with 2,061 points, Woodson averaged 19.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 104 games with the Hoosiers. He graduated with a degree in physical education.
Woodson, born March 24, 1958 in Indianapolis, IN, attended Broad Ripple High in Indianapolis. The high school, whose alumni include CBS’ David Letterman and former Vice President Dan Quayle’s wife Marilyn, retired his number in 2006. He and his wife Terri have two daughters, Alexis and Mariah, and both are very talented volleyball players. Alexis is in her freshman year on the Hoosiers volleyball program, while Mariah is finishing up her senior season for Atlanta’s Woodward Academy.