While it is not related to recruiting, it is pretty impressive that of the 30 NBA teams, four of them employ former Indiana Hoosier basketball players/managers as head coaches. The New York Knicks retained interim head coach Mike Woodson last weekend. Today, it was announced that the Washington Wizards would be doing the same with interim coach Randy Wittman.
Here’s a quick rundown of the four Hoosier head coaches, all of whom played/managed under legendary IU coach Bob Knight:
* Mike Woodson (New York Knicks): Woodson was an assistant coach with the Bucks, Cavaliers, 76ers and Pistons for a combined eight seasons before being hired as the Atlanta Hawks head coach in 2004. After a rough start, Woodson led the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. However, the team could not get past the conference semi-finals and Woodson was not given a new contract in 2010. He was hired as an assistant with the Knicks last August and took over for resigned head coach Mike D’Antoni on March 14th. Woodson led the team to an 18-6 finish and gained the trust of Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony. As an Indiana player, Woodson led the Hoosiers to the 1979 NIT championship. He then, alongside Isiah Thomas, led the team to a Sweet Sixteen in 1980.
* Randy Wittman (Washington Wizards): The Wizards are the third NBA coaching destination for Wittman, who had previously led the Cavaliers (1999-2002) and Timberwolves (2007-08). Though he has yet to make the playoffs as a head coach, Wittman’s leadership turned the Wizards around this past season after he took over for Flip Saunders in January. While an 18-31 record does not look too great, Wittman took over after the team limped to a 2-15 start. He had success as an assistant, playing a crucial role in the development of future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett during his first stint in Minnesota (1994-99). In Bloomington, Wittman was a part of the 1981 Hoosier team that won the National Championship. The following season, Wittman was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and earned second team All-American honors. He is now enshrined in the Indiana Hall of Fame.
* Keith Smart (Sacramento Kings): Many thought that Keith Smart was not given enough time to prove himself as the Golden State Warriors’ head coach in 2011. After just one season, in which the Warriors finished with a 36-46 record, Smart was let go. The season was actually a 10-win improvement from the year before. Smart was hired as an assistant in Sacramento in November and in January was hired to replace Paul Westphal. The Kings finished the season with a 20-39 record under Smart’s leadership. Luckily, he will be given another chance to prove himself as the Kings coach next season. Smart’s most notable moment came during his first season as an Indiana Hoosier, in which he sunk the game-winning shot in the 1987 National Championship game to beat Syracuse. The shot is one of the most memorable moments in Indiana basketball history and was the highlight of Smarts two-year IU career (he came to IU as a JUCO transfer in 1986).
* Lawrence Frank (Detroit Pistons): Frank’s tenure as the New Jersey Nets head coach ended on a sour note, getting fired after a 0-16 start in 2009. In his first four seasons in NJ (2003-07), the Nets made the playoffs each year. Altogether, he accumulated a 225-241 record as the Nets head coach.After a year as an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Frank was hired to be the head man in Detroit. He led the Pistons to a 25-41 record in his first season at the helm. Frank is the only coach on this list that did not actually play at Indiana. Instead, he served as a team manager for four seasons (1988-92) under head coach Bob Knight. During that time, the Hoosiers won two Big Ten titles and reached the 1992 Final Four.