Doc Rivers praises IU head coach Mike Woodson to start pre-game press conference in Indy

"... the job he did here in Indiana was phenomenal," Rivers said before answering the first question from a reporter.

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76ers head coach Doc Rivers wasn’t ready to talk about his team just yet. They're 48-30 with four games left and determined to move up to the second spot in the Eastern Conference.

But being back in Indiana for the first time since November, the longtime head coach had something else on his mind.

As his pre-game media availability began shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, Rivers interrupted as the first question was asked.

“… We’re gonna talk about Mike Woodson first and the job he did here in Indiana was phenomenal,” he said with a smile. “OK, now we can go ahead. I just had to throw that in.”

Woodson, 64, just completed his first year serving as head coach of the Indiana University men’s basketball team. He left his assistant coaching role with the New York Knicks a year ago to achieve his dream of coaching at his alma mater.

IU finished 21-14 this past season. They reached the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2013, beat Wyoming in a First Four game, but then traveled across the country and suffered a blowout loss to No. 5 Saint Mary's in an opening round game of the NCAA Tournament.

Woodson played in the NBA, then coached in the league going back to 1996. He later was an assistant on Rivers' staff with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-18.

Rivers casually mentioned Woodson to start his press conference so I had to follow up to get more of his thoughts.

“I followed them all year,” he said. “It’s funny, they lost all those close games in the middle of the season and then, down the stretch, they were good. They were tough. You could see Woody put that defense in first. Very happy for him. Getting to the tournament — obviously that one tournament game didn’t turn out (well). But getting there in your first year was a hell of an accomplishment for them.”

Doc Rivers has 1,040 wins as a head coach, which ranks 10th in NBA history.

Rivers, 60, has been a head coach in the NBA since 1999 and is in his second season with the 76ers.

His eldest son, Jeremiah, transferred to IU from Georgetown and played two seasons for Tom Crean from 2009-2011.