BORDEN, Ind. (WDRB) -- Mike Woodson and Kenny Payne are friends. They talk often. They talked Tuesday.
They talk about the NBA. They talk about their families. Of course, they talk about college basketball and the joy of coaching at their alma maters,.
And now that Payne is the head men’s coach at the University of Louisville and Woodson is entering his second season as the head coach at Indiana, they have talked about this:
A basketball series between Louisville and Indiana.
Don’t expect a game between the Cardinals and Hoosiers next season — unless ESPN calls for one in the Atlantic Coast Conference-Big Ten Challenge.
And the dormant Kentucky-Indiana rivalry? I also asked Woodson about that. Read on.
But first Louisville vs. IU, a natural because of the Payne-Woodson friendship. But patience, please.
"I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Kenny and (Louisville interim athletic director Josh Heird) and he promised me something in two years," Woodson said Wednesday before he spoke to a sold-out crowd of 975 people at an IU Varsity Club dinner at Huber’s Winery.
"Once Kenny got up and going, we could possibly get a game going in a couple of years. I’ll take that all day long because I know it would be a competitive game."
Makes sense. Payne is only two months into the task of bringing the Cards back from a 13-19 season. With the news Friday that IU center Trayce Jackson-Davis will return for his fourth season, the Hoosier have an experienced roster that has quickly inflated expectations for next season.
The Hoosiers and Cardinals finished a three-game series in December 2018, tear two for Archie Miller in Bloomington and tear one for Chris Mack at U of L.
The Cards beat the Hoosiers in December 2016 in Indianapolis and the following season at the KFC Yum! Center. IU survived the game in Bloomington, 68-67.
Indiana has non-conference games scheduled against Arizona in Las Vegas and Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
IU is expected to draw a home game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as well as a road game in the Gavitt Games, which matches the Big Ten against the Big East.
Woodson also has a relationship with UK head coach John Calipari from their shared time in the NBA. That series ended after Indiana fans famously stormed the court following Christian Watford’s game-winning shot to beat the top-ranked (and eventual national champion) Wildcats on Dec. 10, 2011, at Assembly Hall.
Calipari reportedly was annoyed by the entire Assembly Hall experience. He’s been open to playing the Hoosiers but only at neutral sites. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis would please Calipari. I imagine the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville would, too.
But odds are Calipari would play Indiana on Neptune or Saturn before he will return to Bloomington.
That has not stopped Woodson from proposing the idea.
"The Kentucky game is something that I’ve got to go back to the table with, with Cal," Woodson said.
"He and I have addressed it, early on when I got the job.
"But I’m not going to let it die. I’m going to stay on his heels about trying to get the Kentucky-Indiana series back on the table because I just think, over the years, that was a hell of a game, you know, going to Lexington and them coming down to Bloomington.
"It might not be Bloomington-Lexington. I don’t know. But however way we can get it done, I’ll take it. We’ve just got to figure that part of it out."
Until that happens, Woodson will root for his good friend in Louisville, Kenny Payne.
"I couldn’t be more happy for a guy," Woodson said. "He finally got his big break to come home to Louisville.
"I think he’s going to do great things there because he’s a competitive guy. He knows the recruiting game. And he’s been a part of the college game."
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