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Mike Woodson thanks Knicks as he takes over as coach at Indiana

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson looks on against

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson looks on against the Toronto Raptors in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.  Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Mike Woodson departed the Knicks coaching staff to return to his alma mater, Indiana University where he agreed to take over the head coaching duties.

This was Woodson’s third go-round in New York, first as a player, then as a head coach — leading the team to a pair of playoff appearances before Phil Jackson arrived and fired him. He then joined the staff as an assistant this season, uniting him with Leon Rose, who headed up Creative Artists Agency, which represented Woodson.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Woodson spoke well of his time at Madison Square Garden when they didn’t stand in the way of him departing in season.

"I want to thank my Knick family for allowing me to get out of my contract and come home," he said, speaking at his introductory news conference in Bloomington. "Jim Dolan gets a bad rap in New York. But he was a great owner for me. He allowed me to be head coach and he allowed me to come back and be an assistant.

"I have him to thank, Leon, [William Wesley], Scott Perry and Tom Thibodeau, what a great coach. His beautiful staff that they have assembled in New York has allowed me to do what I do now and be able to come back and be a coach here at Indiana University. They didn’t have to do that but they did, So I thank them very much from the bottom of my heart . . . everybody in that Knicks organization is first class. I have them to thank for me standing here today. "

"Well, No. 1, we are thrilled for him," Thibodeau said. "It’s bittersweet. Obviously, we’ll miss him. He’s an unbelievable guy, a great coach. But it’s such an amazing story. We want to thank Jim Dolan for allowing him to go, along with Leon and Wes. You’ve got to realize what this means to him. He’s a kid who grew up in Indianapolis, as did his wife, Terri, and then of course playing there, the career that he had.

"It’s really a special moment. It allows him to realize a dream. And there’s no one more deserving than him and he’ll knock it out of the park. We’re just thrilled for him. We’re excited about that. We have a very large staff and we have a number of young guys that are developing and they’re involved in everything that we do. So we’ll look internally first [to replace him] and then probably make a decision next summer at some point."

He loves L.A.

The Knicks had the money to offer Andre Drummond a more lucrative deal this season than any of the other teams seeking his services. But the Lakers had Anthony Davis and LeBron James and a legitimate shot at a championship ring, so he opted for Los Angeles.

"I made my decision based on what was best for me, not because of what anybody told me," Drummond said in a Zoom call after officially joining the Lakers. "Definitely in talking to this team, talking to those guys about how I fit on the team was a fun process for me and having that conversation with those two guys and what they were looking for from me was something I was willing and excited to do, especially for this franchise. I’m not here to do anything besides win."

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