Hey Hondo! Answering Your Michigan State Basketball Questions

Sports Illustrated’s Hondo Carpenter answers the emails and questions of Spartan Nation regarding Michigan State basketball.
Feb 11, 2006; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo talks to guard (11) Drew Neitzel after he fouled out of the game against the Minnesota Gophers  at Williams Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Photo By Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Bruce Kluckhohn
Feb 11, 2006; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo talks to guard (11) Drew Neitzel after he fouled out of the game against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2005 Bruce Kluckhohn / Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartan Nation is fortunate to have one of the most storied college basketball programs, led by a legendary Hall of Fame coach in Tom Izzo.

The heritage is fantastic. It has multiple national titles, 26 straight NCAA appearances, and a lineage of players who are genuinely the who’s who of the sport.  Additionally, over his time as the head coach of the Spartans, no one has more Final Fours than Tom Izzo.

So, today, I set out to answer some of your questions regarding the basketball program.

Hey Hondo, so glad you are answering questions.  Was Frankie Fidler the biggest Spartan hoops news this offseason?  So jacked to see him.  Curtis G.

Was that an important move for Tom Izzo and Michigan State?  Of course.  Was it the biggest?  Are you kidding me?  That is like comparing a big bass to catching a great white shark.  Fidler is a key and important player, but the hiring of Saddie Washington was absolutely enormous.

Hondo, I can’t put into words what Tom Izzo going outside the family and hiring Saddie Washington was.  Can you?  Vincent T.

I am not sure because I 100% disagree with the premise of your question.  A Lansing native whose father is a Spartan Nation great?  Raised Green and White is outside the family?  He didn’t work for Tom and has some outside influence, but I wouldn’t call Saddie outside the family.  He is more like a cousin who lived 100 miles away, but, make no mistake, he is a Spartan.

Hondo, what player is the one who will have the biggest impact on this season?  It has to be Fidler right? Delores C.

Xavier Booker without a doubt.  He is literally the 2024-2025 X-factor. 

Hondo, what season was Tom Izzo’s best coaching job?  I have a bet with my father-in-law and you are the one to decide it.  Carlos L.  Laguna Beach, CA

This is the most straightforward question ever, and I bet neither of you has this season.  If one of you does, I will pay for dinner.  Drew Neitzel’s junior season. 2006-2007.  Drew put that team, which had no business being in the NCAA Tournament, on his back, and he and Tom Izzo willed the team there. 

That team not only made the NCAA Tournament (and had no business doing so), but they beat Marquette in round one and lost to North Carolina in round Two in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

On a side not, when my career is over and I write my book, I will tell the story of how four North Carolina fans ended up in the middle of the Spartan cheering section.

It was, by far, Tom’s best coaching job.  Proving that in some seasons, your best work doesn’t end in a title is another reminder of how some don’t truly appreciate Izzo's 26-straight NCAA Tournament years.

Hondo, do you think Frankie Fidler is the real deal and can have a significant impact for Tom Izzo in 2024?  Kara B.

Yes, and yes. He is a very big deal and can have a major impact. It will be interesting to watch how he develops.

Hondo, can you tell us what Tom Izzo did to keep Xavier Booker from leaving?  I know he was not happy during the season, and I would love to know how Izzo kept him.  Nicholas H.

I would love to know how you “KNOW” some of your suppositions.  That was all rumor mill crap.  Was he thrilled with how fast his game was progressing?  No, was he mad or blaming Izzo?  Not at all.  He loves Tom, Tom loves him, and they trust each other.  Tom didn’t have to do anything.  Xavier knows the plan and is well aware of Tom's vision for him, including a long and successful NBA career.  Xavier is a very smart young man who sees a big vision, not the fleeting impulse of just today.  Tom didn’t do anything different, and to his credit, neither did Booker.  He has been committed and locked in and is a terrific young man.

Hondo, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you answer Michigan State questions. I have always trusted you, and your inside look is exceptional. I know that you and Izzo are friends. Do you have something about him that maybe people don’t know, and maybe he gets so much disrespect for? I hate to see the criticism.  Kelly W.

What a great question Kelly.  I do have a fantastic relationship with Tom, and I can tell you that people do not understand how communicative he is.  People act like his players don’t understand him or get him.  They might not always like what he says, or how he says it, but they do know this.  Coach always has time for them (both before, during, and after they are here).

I have watched players who did him very wrong years later still be able to count on a return call when they leave a message.

He is a blue-collar millionaire, and he understands that the two biggest things in life are the hard world and time.  Tom invests and people, and sometimes those on the outside don’t see it or grasp it, and some on the inside are too young to appreciate.

I want to tell you a story that illustrates this well.

Years ago, Michigan State played a noon game.  After my work, I caught a plan for a speaking engagement in another state.  After I spoke, I flew back that night, and when my driver pulled into the Breslin so I could get my car, Tom was sitting on the couch in his office STILL visiting with a player going through some personal issues.  We are talking nearly 13 hours later.

You, or anyone else might not like what or how Izzo says something, but I can tell you this.  It is sincere.  Tom Izzo, like me, and you, isn’t perfect, but he is genuine, and I admire him for that.

If you have a question regarding Michigan State football, basketball, or the athletic program in general, please send it to SpartanNationMail@yahoo.com, and when you do, put in the subject line MSU Q & A

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Hondo Carpenter