Indiana vs. Kentucky is back because Mike Woodson is chill
On the benefits of not being fussy
There are two types of people who swear a lot. There is the person who swears a lot because they need you to understand how absolutely dead serious they are, because what they are saying is IMPORTANT and you need to LISTEN TO IT and they can’t get their POINT ACROSS without it. And then there is the other type: Swearers with chill. Your Lebowski types. Curse words are just a part of their vocabulary, man. Always have been. What’s the problem? The thought of causing offense doesn’t cross the mind. The audience doesn’t warrant consideration. They’re so laid back about the whole idea they barely even realize they’re doing it.
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Mike Woodson is the latter. He swears a lot, but casually so. It is just as likely to happen in a one-on-one interview as at the postgame press conference dais. It’s never a thing. It’s not a put-on. It’s just how he talks. Similar is his constant, jarring use of “ball club,” a verbal tick he came upon honestly across 30 years of NBA life. Woodson doesn’t modulate himself. The college game hasn’t changed him. He speaks authentically, for better or worse, the same way he always has.
College coaches don’t use “ball club.” But then Woodson isn’t like most college coaches.
That was the first thing that came to mind this week, in the wake of some pretty major scheduling news: On Tuesday, Indiana and Kentucky released a joint statement announcing the long-awaited resumption of the IU-Kentucky series, a border rivalry of historic programs that hasn’t been played in the regular season since Christian Watford’s famous shot at Assembly Hall in 2011. (IU and UK have met in the 2012 and 2016 NCAA Tournaments.) Three of the four games are on campus: Two at Rupp Arena, one at Assembly Hall, one at Lucas Oil Stadium in the interim.
For 12 years, Indiana fans have been clamoring for the return of this rivalry, lamenting the loss of the nostalgic fixture of their youth. Kentucky coach John Calipari — and Kentucky fans — have always brushed the idea aside. Until recently, it was thought that Calipari would never allow his Wildcats to play Indiana again. Previous IU coaches tried desperately to get this thing back up and running. Mike Woodson is the one who got it done.
What’s different now? Woodson isn’t fussy. He doesn’t care about the same things that lots of college coaches care about. This might be his greatest asset.
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