Tom Izzo: No freshman is happy. Fighting through that helps you in life

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday May 25, 2017

On the topic of transfers, Tom Izzo isn’t going to say he thinks it’s bad for the game, and he knows coaches can move freely, but he just thinks it’s bad for the players themselves.

Whether or not you want to describe it as an “epidemic,” there have been more than 600 transfers in college basketball this spring. Sometimes, it’s a grad transfer for a guy who wants more playing time, and Izzo has been supportive of that. But there are many other instances he feels players are leaving adversity too quickly, and there are people around the player telling them to leave.

“It’s a transfer society we live in, but I think we’re missing the boat that we’re really teaching kids, when the going gets tough, hit the road,” Izzo said on The Sidelines podcast. “I can think of so many kids that wanted to transfer as freshmen here, back when I was an assistant, from Scott Skiles, Sam Vincent, to when I was a head coach with Morris Peterson, everybody wants to transfer. Who’s happy as a freshman? Fighting through it is what helps you fight through the other things in life.

“I think we’re making it so easy to transfer. To me, it’s sad. I think we’re losing a lot of good kids. We haven’t lost a ton (at MSU), but I think we’re teaching the wrong thing. Now on those cases where we made a mistake or they made a mistake, that’s understandable. But a mistake isn’t that you’re the third leading scorer on the team. I saw some women’s program (Maryland) where the freshman of the year transferred. What have we come down to?”

If you point out to Izzo that coaches can move freely, he doesn’t think it’s the same thing, but understands it.

“I look at it differently than most people,” he said. “If you say it hurts basketball, the first thing someone’s going to say is ‘Coaches can change jobs.’ But you’ve earned that over years and years. It took me a long time to get to be a head coach. But I agree with that, I can go with that argument. But I worry about it.”

Izzo’s had his share of transfers in the past few years, but Izzo has publicly supported the players and helped them find a landing spot.

The Spartans are expected to be a preseason top-5 team next year. Last year’s team relied on four freshmen, the youngest team Izzo’s ever had. It was a challenge, but as he put it, when a coach has players he loves being around, it’s a good experience.

“Getting players is one thing, but getting better players that are better kids makes the job more fun,” he said. “The group I had this year, last year and the year before, it was unbelievable. This year, even with a lot of freshmen learning, was phenomenal. They’re the type of people you want to be around. You spend a lot of time around these kids. It’s nice when you enjoy being around them not only as players, but as people.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 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