Izzo: 'If a coach doesn't have that triangle, I don't know if you have a chance'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday April 05, 2016


(Photo credit: USA Today Sports Images)

Tom Izzo cried when Michigan State lost to Middle Tennessee State in the NCAA Tournament, in part because it was his last game coaching Denzel Valentine.

Valentine won numerous Player of the Year awards, but it was the coach-player relationship that was most important to Izzo, and that goes back to parents. Valentine’s father, Carlton, is a former MSU player and a local high school coach. Every coach wants good parents, and Izzo says it’s vital for the player to have success. Izzo reflected on that after his election to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

“Win or lose, he gets it,” Izzo said on The Drive with Jack Ebling. “He understands it and has been through it. It’s nothing new for him. Levels don’t really matter. I don’t care if you’re high school, college or pro. It’s always the same thing: How can you get the most out of a player? I said it when I recruited (Denzel), I’ll never change this no matter who I recruit: If you don’t have a triangle between the parents, coaching staff and the kid, I don’t know if you have a chance. Too many people get in the way.

“I’m sure it’s the same for (Carlton) in high school. That’s the beauty of it. More often than not, I had to make sure he was OK with ‘Zel, because he was as demanding or more demanding than I was.”

As for the player, Izzo says Valentine was the type of leader that’s harder to find in today’s game. Valentine improved every year on the court and improved his leadership off it. That’s what Izzo is telling NBA teams.

Izzo always puts the leadership on his seniors, and he’ll have to find new ones next year. Players like Valentine don’t come around often, and that's what he'll miss.

I knew I had a guy that, every day, had my back. In this day and age, that’s not the norm,” Izzo said. “He grew, he got better every day. He was the role model I could use with his work ethic. But I don’t like that. I’m not big with someone just being (a role model for) how you do. I’m more worried with how you make others do. That’s where he’ll be the best role model, and he’ll continue that.

“I told NBA teams, he got better every day from his freshman year of high school to his senior year of college. He’s a guy who texts me late at night. He had a great pulse on the team. He knew what I wanted, and I knew what he wanted. It was a mutual love affair.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.