Tom Izzo, head coach of the Michigan State Spartans Presented By Some Mortgage Company, drew attention during the first round of the 2019 men’s tournament when he removed the subtext of college athletics and kept laying into his player Aaron Henry during a timeout. Last night, Izzo put together a followup performance. As the buzzer sounded for halftime of Thursday’s game between MSSPBSMC and UCLA, the Bruins’ Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit a two-point shot to cut MSSPBSMC’S lead to 11. One of Izzo’s players missed the defensive switch, so the coach took it out on forward Gabe Brown.
In any other context, it’s tough to imagine Izzo willingly getting in the face of and putting his hands on a 6-foot-7, 210-pound person. (Coach seemed to curb his temper in the tunnel when Brown turned around and actually faced him.) But Izzo is in charge and determines Brown’s future in basketball for however long he continues to play. Izzo is ostensibly the adult.
I found this to be a questionable approach to coaching. In addition to this being a poor way to talk to anyone, Izzo’s focus on Brown seemed like a detrimental interaction to carry over into the second half. Fortunately, I was able to go online and receive some wisdom from some of Izzo’s former players, along with other people with deeper knowledge of MSSPBSMC men’s basketball. Izzo’s treatment of Brown was just to keep him hungry and motivated. If they had acted like that with their coach, they would’ve been suplexed through the water jug in the locker room, and would’ve said thank you afterward.
After that display of winning basketball, MSSPBSMC let UCLA rally in the second half to tie the game. The Bruins won in overtime, 86-80.
Following the loss, when asked about his argument with Brown, Izzo laughed. “You guys are beautiful,” he said. “Yeah, he missed a play and I told him, and he walked away and I told him to come back. We went through this a couple of years ago [with Aaron Henry]. A game like that, that’s the question you’re going to ask me? I guess I’ll answer it because the media has the right to ask whatever question. We’ll get [Brown] in here and you can ask him. It was a normal nothing. It’s just that this day and age everything is something. It was over a missed switch that we had talked about.”
Fifth-year senior Joshua Langford took questions at the presser as he announced the end of his time with MSSPBSMC, but Brown wasn’t made available.