Morehead State hires Sean Woods
MOREHEAD, Ky. -- Sean Woods said it's a blessing to come home.
A beloved former Kentucky point guard, Woods was introduced Monday as the head coach of Morehead State after a four-year stint at Mississippi Valley State.
"I'm glad to be back here. This is home for me. This has been a long journey to come back. Sometimes it's good to go away to come back, some people appreciate you more, but I tell you this, it's not going to stop. The saga's going to continue, the story is going to continue," Woods said. "Let's bring national notoriety to Morehead State."
Woods said he envisioned a "Gonzaga of the South" at the Ohio Valley Conference school during his introductory news conference that at times bordered on a big-tent revival during his 16-minute opening remarks. Several times people in the crowd shouted "Amen" as the 42-year-old laid out his ambitious objectives.
"I've been fortunate enough because of who I am and the people I've been around that everywhere I've been, we've made some kind of history," he said. "I don't plan on it stopping right now. I plan on, with you all's help and support, taking this, not only to the NCAA tournament, not only being one of the top teams in the OVC, but being a major player."
Woods led Mississippi Valley State to a 21-13 mark this year and the school's fifth-ever NCAA tournament appearance before losing to Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He said Morehead State is much better off than where he was when he started at Itta Bena, Miss.
The Eagles have had a swath of recent success. Two seasons ago, Morehead State and defensive force Kenneth Faried topped Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tournament with coach Donnie Tyndall at the helm.
The victory gave the school that's an hour away from the University of Kentucky and sits at the base of the Appalachians Mountains its first victory in the NCAA tournament's main draw since 1984. The Eagles have averaged 21.5 wins over the last four years, but have been locked in a fierce rivalry with Murray State to be the conference's premier program in the one-bid league.
"As far as Murray State is concerned, Murray State better be worried about Morehead State," Woods said.
Athletic director Brian Hutchinson said he let Woods know he had the job before Woods even got back on the plane to return to Mississippi on Friday and Woods joked he had no one to hug or give a high-five in the Huntington, W.Va., airport when he learned the decision.
When he finally landed, Woods said he had 96 text messages.
"I think my gut told me he was the right guy for us," Hutchinson said.
Woods said that he doesn't fear playing the state's biggest programs like Kentucky and Louisville. Hutchinson said that would be a good thing, hinting that both programs would be on the Eagles' schedule next season along with 13 other teams that participated in various postseason tournaments last year.
"I walked into that," Woods said. "Put it this way, my situation, where I'm coming from, I'm no stranger, nor am I afraid to play anybody in the United States."
Woods played at Kentucky from 1989-92 under coach Rick Pitino.
He may be best known for scoring 21 points and hitting the go-ahead basket with 2.1 seconds left in overtime for the Wildcats in the 1992 East Regional final against Duke just before Christian Laettner made the game-winner that still irritates Kentucky's fan base 20 years later.
Woods, whose jersey is retired at Rupp Arena, said the fans probably know his past better than he does, but that has little to do with his new job beyond name recognition.
"I am Sean Woods, the head men's basketball coach of Morehead State University," he said. "I am not Sean Woods who was a basketball player who played at the University of Kentucky. Has everybody got that?"
Since his playing days, Woods spent time on the coaching staffs at TCU (2006-08), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2005-06) and High Point (2003-05) before taking over at Mississippi Valley State. The position at Morehead State opened when Tyndall accepted the head coaching job at Southern Mississippi last month.
"The program Donnie left is in great shape," he said. "I promise I won't mess it up."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press