It’s been a good few days for Mike Woodson.
After starting his weekend with a recommitment from his program’s best returning player, the new Indiana coach poached an assistant from a conference rival. And really, it’s not just any ol’ assistant coach.
It’s Dane Fife, the former Hoosier guard and longtime Michigan State assistant, who was officially announced as Woodson’s second hire on Monday afternoon. Fife’s appointment comes less than a week after Kenya Hunter, a holdover from Archie Miller’s last staff at IU, decided to stick with Woodson.
Fife brings a decade’s worth of Big Ten coaching and recruiting experience to Woodson’s bench, having worked closely with the Spartans’ guards during his time in East Lansing. Prior to joining Tom Izzo’s staff, Fife spent six seasons as head coach at IPFW. The 2002 IU graduate helped lead the Hoosiers to the 2002 national title game, earning co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. Fife’s .478 3-point shooting percentage in 2001-02 ranks sixth all-time on IU’s single season leaderboard.
This will be Fife’s second stint on the IU coaching staff. After a brief professional playing career in the Continental Basketball Association, Fife spent two seasons as an administrative assistant under Mike Davis.
“Dane is someone who I have always had the utmost respect for,” Woodson said in a statement. “His knowledge of the Big Ten and his success as a recruiter will be an invaluable asset as we look to continue building a staff that will help elevate this program to the highest levels. I know his love for the for the Hoosiers and this University comes across the moment you talk to him and we are excited to welcome back Dane, his wife Blair, and daughters Quinnly and Reagan back to Bloomington.”
In 10 seasons with the Spartans, he was part of a staff that produced eight All-Americans, 10 NBA Draft picks, and three Big Ten Players of the Year. Last July, Stadium.com ranked Fife as the third-best assistant in the Big Ten, based on input from coaches across the conference.
“He has a wealth of Big Ten experience as a big-time player and as a long-time assistant,” one anonymous Big Ten assistant told Stadium. “His defensive mindset is clearly implemented in the toughness that has been a staple under (Tom) Izzo at Michigan State. His relationship with players is clearly one of the reasons they do such a great job in recruiting every year and remain as consistent of a program as there is in the country.”
Fife’s decision to return to Bloomington is the latest dose of encouraging news for IU’s program since Woodson was announced as head coach on March 28. In addition to Hunter and Trayce Jackson-Davis sticking around, former UT-Martin transfer Parker Stewart and commits Logan Duncomb and CJ Gunn have also affirmed allegiance to the Hoosiers.
And IU’s hiring of Fife, a man who was rumored to be under consideration during each of Indiana’s last two head coaching searches, is easily some of the best news of all.
“I’m excited to announce that I’m joining Coach Mike Woodson’s staff and I intend to help him bring home number six,” Fife said. “To be an Indiana Hoosier, as I’ve always said, was my dream as a little boy growing up in Clarkston, Michigan. Now, once more, I’m going to be a Hoosier.”