LONDON -- Mike Woodson: Coach. Player. Salesman?
Ahead of the New York Knicks' meeting in London with the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, much has been made of the past success enjoyed in the United Kingdom by Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony following Team USA’s gold medal run at last year’s Olympic Games.
But Woodson revealed his own past gig here, working in the promotions department at one of British basketball’s most famous clubs, the Manchester Giants.
A graduate of Indiana University, Woodson was brought in to help out in the team's front office by some old friends when the club was bought by the Indiana-based Cook Group almost 20 years ago.
The general manager was a fellow Hoosier, Scott May, who needed an idea man to lend a hand with marketing the Giants in a city where the two soccer clubs hold a tight grip on local affections.
“Scott tried to develop it,” Woodson said. “We helped with gameday promotion. It was mainly Scott May and Steve Ferguson who were putting people in place to run the Giants. That was when they had London Towers, London Leopards. It was a nice league at that time.”
After losing several million dollars on their investment, the Cook Group eventually pulled out in 2001 and the club folded. However a new team with the same name started up in the 12-team British Basketball League last fall.
Despite the tough sell, those were still good times, Woodson says.
But on his return to the UK, he has made strenuous efforts to keep his players’ minds on defeating the Pistons for the second time this season, following a 121-100 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 25.
“The expectation is to win,” he underlined. “We’re not just here to be here. This team (Detroit) is in the East, they’re playing better. We’re trying to stay at the top of our division.”