If Adrian Wojnarowski’s report is true — which is so often the case — then new Indiana head basketball coach Mike Woodson needs to fire his agent. Because he just got played.
The Hoosiers hired the former Bobby Knight-era star last month, as it’s been reported that Woodson signed a six-year deal that will pay him around $3 million per year, making it approximately $18 million in total. But, how does a former IU great — a top-five scorer in the program’s history, with NBA experience as an assistant and head coach — get offered a deal for $52 million less than an Indiana native who never attended, played, or coached at the school?
Woodson should be furious, as his alma mater has made it clear that not only was he their second — or third — choice, but that they knew they could get him for cheap. It gets even worse when you realize that Stevens never entertained the idea of taking the job, according to Woj.
“I said it the other day: I’m not. And I tried to say it as clearly as I could and also make sure that people understand that that place, to me, (is) special,” Stevens said at a pregame news conference last month. “I love coming to work every day. I love this area. People have been great to us. My family is so happy. And, at the same time, home is home. And that’s why I wanted to make sure everybody understood that means a lot. But no. Just like I said on Tuesday, I’m not. So, I don’t know if I will have to answer that again on Monday, but I hope people understand that. And people can hopefully appreciate that it still means a lot to me and I hope they hire whoever (they) hire and they are there for 20 years and kids feel like I did. But I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a 44-year-old Masshole.”
The disrespect increases when you compare Woodson’s and Stevens’ resumes. Because while many may believe that Stevens is a better coach than Woodson, it’s not as if there’s a huge margin between the two, if there is one at all.
When it comes to playoff success, Stevens has an edge, having reached the conference finals three times compared to Woodson’s three second-round playoff exits. However, 55 and 53 are the highest win totals that Stevens has achieved during the regular season. Those numbers are almost identical to the 54 and 53-win seasons that are Woodson’s regular-season highs. The college ranks are where Stevens has the edge, as it’s an area in which Woodson has no experience.
Woodson begs to differ. “To me basketball is basketball,” he said at his introductory press conference when asked about his lack of experience on the collegiate level. “Sure, I’ve never coached in college, but I’d like to think that I’ve coached at the highest level and I’ve coached some of the greatest players that have ever graced the basketball world.”
When Stevens took a mid-major like Butler to back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011, where he lost to Coach K’s Duke and Jim Calhoun’s UConn, he was instantly deemed the next young “great white hype” in coaching circles, even though he hadn’t won anything (and still hasn’t). A few seasons later, Stevens took the Celtics job, where he’s been ever since. But opinions on Stevens have been mixed. Because while he is well-liked and always spoken of highly, he’s also often viewed as either a coach who has succeeded or one who has underachieved.
“Sometimes when you go through steps you go through each part of the year and say: ‘What could all of us have done differently? What could I have done differently?’ … I’ve thoroughly vetted myself, and thoroughly vetted what I think we could have done better,” Stevens said after the 2018-2019 season when a loaded Celtics roster that included Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum underperformed and lost 4-1 to the Bucks in the second round.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen some ridiculous numbers get thrown at basketball coaches. In 2010, the Cavs reportedly offered Tom Izzo a five-year, $30 million deal — which was huge at the time. Four years later, the Cavs were in the news again as they were willing to pay John Calipari $80 million to leave Kentucky. Besides higher coaching salaries across sports, the difference between what Izzo and Calipari were offered and what Stevens could have made is that the former have won championships, while Stevens hasn’t.
Only time will tell how Brad Stevens’ coaching career will continue to pan out, and if Mike Woodson can be successful at Indiana. But, no matter what the future may have in store, Woodson needs to find himself a better agent. Because there’s no way that the last coach that won a playoff series for the Knicks deserves to be valued $52 million less than a guy that’s never been able to get over the hump.