Tom Izzo: 'If you weren't moved by that, I wouldn't want you here'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday March 08, 2016


You can always count on Tom Izzo to shed tears on Senior Day, and it's a big part of what fuels him.

After Michigan State basketball’s final home game over the weekend, Izzo said the post-game celebration was “a reason to coach for another 10 years.” While many top college hoops programs see the best players leave early, Izzo’s program has been built on four-year players who improve, making Senior Day even more special, and that extends to the community.

"I had a friend of mine that was a priest that left (East Lansing). He came back today to watch the game. Recruits in the stands, former players in the stands. There are probably a million more. Even the average fan.” Izzo said after the game. “If you weren’t moved by that, I wouldn’t want you. I wouldn’t want you. I was very, very proud of our people. Not our players, but our people. I mean, those people in the stands, you can tell, they gave them respect and love. And we’re not allowed to use that word because we’re macho athletes. They gave them respect and love. They did it at the highest level, and I think our players have given them respect and love back.

“That’s what it should be all about, no matter if you’re a recruit, a mom, a dad, a little kid, a 90-year old mother — like my mother was here today. I’ll have to ask her what she thought about it. If she didn’t like it, I might have to kick her out tonight. She’ll have to get a hotel room or something.”

This four-player senior class didn’t include very highly-rated players, three put themselves in the NBA conversation, and the other is going to medical school. Izzo always calls out his seniors to lead teams, and he puts their growth on the players themselves. Izzo knows players have to earn everything in his program.

“I’d like to sit up here and beat my chest and say, ‘Look what I turned them into’, but it didn’t happen that way,” Izzo said. “I’ll be the first to tell you that my assistants did a great job, the managers did a great job, but those kids, I always look at millionaires. I say OK, was that million handed down, or was that earned? And nothing was handed down for these guys. I sure as hell didn’t hand anything down. They worked. They earned it. They did it. And I’m not sure any group has come from there to here, no matter what happens next week or the week after, like this group has. …

“I was sitting in my hotel room two days ago at Rutgers, and the Bad Boys (30 for 30) came on. Isiah Thomas says at the end, ‘I gave everything I had, I had nothing left’. I looked at those four guys today and I said, ‘You guys have given everything you have, but you better have something left’ (for the NCAA Tournament). And that’s the way I look at it.”

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.