Sunday, March 2, 2014
I am worried about Tom Izzo
I am not worried about his ability as a coach. His accomplishments speak for themselves.
I am more worried about his well-being.
I know Izzo has always been an animated and emotional coach, but this season seems different. The emotion and animation seems to be more out of anger and rage than joy and excitement.
I can probably count on my hand the number of camera shots I have seen Izzo look genuinely happy this season.
Michigan State came into 2013-14 with a lot of hype and a lot of expectations. There was also plenty of pressure. MSU entered this season needing to reach the Final Four for Izzo to avoid having a senior class go their entire four years in East Lansing without reaching the national semifinals.
On paper, MSU looked like it not only could contend for the Big Ten title, but also the national championship. Gary Harris is one of the top players in the country and Adreian Payne has developed into a dynamic player on both sides of the floor. Mix in some veteran leadership and a Big Ten title almost seemed like a guarantee, especially when Michigan lost Mitch McGary.
Things haven’t exactly worked out. MSU has now lost three of its last four and two straight at home to Nebraska and Illinois. Izzo has looked exceedingly dumbfounded with each loss and probably is aware that a season of “what could be” is quickly turning into a season of “what could have been.”
There is no doubt that Izzo wants a second national title. It would be the final piece to define his legendary run at Michigan State. Without it, he is still one of the greats, but most close to the program have expressed Izzo’s desire to earn that second title.
Saturday’s game was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I never expect Izzo’s teams to play like they did coming off a loss followed by a week off, especially when that loss came in embarrassing fashion against your rival.
Izzo’s messages are either not getting through, or State doesn’t have the talent. I think we all know they have the talent.
The yelling and screaming and hair pulling isn’t having the same impact it once had. It could be a generational thing, or it could be that Izzo’s message has run its course in East Lansing. Some players in this day and age don’t respond to Izzo’s style like athletes in the past may have. Thick skin certainly hasn’t been a trait of evolution.
Izzo won’t quit, but he can’t hide from what is happening this season. Blaming injuries and the media will only get you so far. Those excuses get hollow when the losses continue.
If this season ends in disappointment, which is hard to imagine it won’t at this point, I hope Izzo takes some time away from the court before getting ready for next season. If he can truly say he is still enjoying coaching right now, then I would hate to see what it is like for him when he isn’t enjoying it.
Izzo looks like he needs a recharge, or maybe even a clean slate with a new program. Maybe he even just needs to retire and take some time away from the game. I am not trying to say the man can’t coach, he absolutely can and is one of the greats in the game. But, I would like to see him step away from MSU before his legacy is damaged by disappointing seasons, or a health scare. Nothing in this life is worth putting that kind of stress on yourself, even a national title.
This talk could all be premature and Izzo could put together another magical run in March. All would be forgotten if that happened, but my thoughts on Izzo wouldn’t change. This season appears to have taken its toll on him.