East Lansing, MI — As the COVID-19 pandemic circles the globe, it recently hit much closer to home in the Spartan Nation. Dwayne (D.J.) Stephens, associate basketball head coach and former Spartan great, lost his father, Dwayne Stephens Sr., to the novel coronavirus, Tom Izzo said in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated’s Spartan Nation on Friday.
"It was about a little over a week ago, and they found out that his dad was sick down in I think Southfield, and he had contracted, I guess, I don't know the word but with COVID-19,” Izzo said in the interview. “He seemed to be doing pretty good for a while, and he took a turn for the worse two days ago, and we lost him."
Izzo said about his relationship with the elder Stephens, "He was a great guy. Man, I have known him since I recruited D.J. He was a loyal guy, and you know it has been very hard on D.J. and his family. He has grand kids who are 5, 8, and 14. Those are kind of formidable years that you are just starting to build a relationship with your grandparents; you are old enough to figure out what that means."
Izzo expounded on the closeness of the family: "D.J. was close enough with his mom and dad that they got up to games still go to see him. I just feel awful for D.J. and his family. I feel awful for, of course, his dad and his brother who lives out in Virginia. It's been hard because you can't even be there for him when you need to be there for him. So, I talked to D.J. the last couple of days; he is working through it like we all have to do. Life goes on as they say but, I think you know, I'm sure a lot of people have run into this. But when it hits home, close to home, it always seems to mean a little more.
“It's a shame it's that way; I think that's a human response."
So how is the basketball program dealing with the loss?
"It sure did hit me, my staff, my team, the players, from Travis (Walton) to Gary Harris and Draymond (Green), Miles (Bridges), and Jaren (Jackson), all over have called and done a million texts,” Izzo said. “I think we could all keep D.J.'s family in our prayers; it would be appreciated."
No funeral arrangements are finalized, Izzo added.