October 16, 2009
A lot of college coaches like to run the media room as if it's an
extension of their basketball team. The berate, cajole, and poke. They
admit nothing and deny everything. When challenged, they turn things
back on the reporter: "Well, what did you see?" Covering college basketball is a lot of fun; coaches like this do their best to make it less so.
Tom Izzo's slightly different. An Izzo press conference is usually far more open, even when Izzo's clearly angry with his team. What's more, Izzo isn't afraid to criticize or question his players to the media. He has a way of seeming like he's saying exactly what's on his mind at all times, even if he's hiding things. He's really good.
For a very special example of this skill, please view Izzo's 26-minute opening statement -- yes, a 26-minute monologue, prompted only by Izzo himself -- at Michigan State's media day. It's not just the length, which is silly and incomprehensible to think about. (Ever tried talking for 26 minutes straight? It's not easy.) It's also the content. Izzo walks through nearly every aspect of his team's development, and he isn't afraid to say a few difficult things, things like his doubts about whether the team has the sort of leadership it needs from its best players. That stuff isn't fun to hear as a player, but Izzo isn't afraid to say it. It's admirable, in a way.