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.
Mar 27, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans former player Magic Johnson during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans former player Magic Johnson during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports / Mark Konezny-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.

Hondo, I have no words to tell you how glad I am that you are back talking Michigan State sports.  You have been so missed.  My question is about Izzo.  He has taken a lot of heat for no Final Fours lately (since you left), and I would like to hear your thoughts on those sentiments.  I know he is your friend, but you have always been fair.  Katherine W.  Lennon, MI

Hi Katherine, and thank you for the kind words.  The team has not done as well lately as in the past.  But college basketball is not the same either.  Years ago, I wrote an article about Tom Izzo’s success in a corrupt world of college hoops.  He has changed, but it is significantly more difficult to win now.  Izzo has taken a ton of heat, but I can tell you no one demands more of him than himself.  He would never say this, but I think the criticism, so much simply ignorant, hurts him.  He is a human, but at the same time, no one, and I mean no one, is harder on Tom Izzo than himself.

Hondo, has the game passed Tom Izzo by?  I love and appreciate all that he has done for the Spartans, but I am not knowledgeable enough to understand, and it seems like we are slipping.  If we are not, is there anything outside the program that you hear that maybe Izzo could improve?  Monty C.

He just made his 26th straight NCAA tournament.  Slipping?  I will address this later in the column, but I wouldn’t say they are slipping.  The game is evolving.  As far as what I hear, in my job for SI, I constantly ask high-end basketball people what they think of Michigan State, and I only hear one constant beating of the drum, and that is simply about his offense.  I am sure Izzo would disagree, but that is a constant criticism that I hear

Hondo, what is the biggest key for Tom Izzo to get this program back to the Final Fours at least once every four years?  Brandon B.

NIL money.  Tom used to lose recruits (who admitted to me) to programs that cheated.  If MSU wants to be great again, NIL money will decide the future of any college sport.  No one wants to hear that, but take it from Uncle Hondo’s Reckless Pursuit of Truth Tour as a complex reality in modern college sports.

Hondo, here is a quick one.  I don’t think Tom Izzo has lost it, but is the program snake-bit?  What can you put your finger on?  Adam V.

Tom Izzo is not snake bit; the game is changing.  Programs now succeed solely on NIL money.  Who can buy the best players?  He is the same coach, the same person, loves his players, and demands the best, but you have to get those players.  I had a fan tell me over the weekend, “I want kids that want to be here,” that is great in a Pollyanna world of gumballs and butterflies, but it isn’t reality.  If a player loves Michigan State and someone offers life-changing money to help a young man and his family more, the young man has to choose his family.  I know kids who told me on my radio show that they always wanted to be Spartans, but they privately tell me Izzo wouldn’t cheat and pay, and their families needed money now.  I know another recruit who CRIED because he was not allowed to go to MSU because they wouldn’t pay.  When his team beat MSU, he told me and others he wished he had been playing for the Spartans that night.

Let me tell you this.  When Mark Dantonio won his first bowl game, Tom Izzo told him, “Congratulations, but now, you can never go back.  Once you start to win, that is the standard.”  Tom told me that story.

Tom Izzo set the bar so high that it is nearly impossible to do that, so expectations are almost impossible.

My son and I recently discussed this. His entire life at Michigan State under Tom Izzo has been great. So, to him, what appears as a slip, while real, is not realistic to those of my generation and age who truly remember Michigan State’s struggles prior to Izzo.

Hondo, perhaps you can settle an argument between my son (20) and myself (44).  He says that Draymond Green is the best Spartan ever, and I say that Magic Johnson is.  You know both and saw both, and we both trust you.  Chris O.

Earvin is, without a doubt, the best Spartan basketball player ever.  He is one of the best basketball players at any level to ever play the game.  He sits on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest, and while I love Draymond, respect him, and think he is an Iconic winner, he is not Earvin.  I believe Day-Day would agree with me.

Hondo, when the day comes that Tom Izzo leaves, and I hope it isn’t for a long time, would you like to see MSU Administration make the next hire or Tom?  Dylan J.

If anyone other than Tom Izzo makes the hire, everyone involved in that decision should be fired. It would be nothing short of complete stupidity, like the geniuses who hired Mel Tucker and gave him the massive extension. Hopefully, no more people associated with the University are that ignorant ever again.

Hondo, I was told over the weekend that new guy Frankie Fidler was in the NBA Draft queue and was not coming.  I am in complete panic here, can you fill us in?  Paul H

He is not in the NBA Draft.  He has withdrawn.

H-Man, great to have you dishing the Michigan State goodies once again.  My father and I have a discussion underway.  He is older like you and thinks Jud Heathcote is the best MSU basketball coach ever, and I say Tom Izzo.  Once we saw you were taking questions we have a dinner bet on it, and you are the judge.  Who is the best MSU basketball coach ever.  We both agreed you can join us.  Nathan J.

You both are wrong, and I guess I would be the only one getting a free meal.  Pete Newell is one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.  Bobby Knight declared him the greatest coach of the game ever.  He coached here from 1950-1954 and won a National Title with California in 1959.  He changed the game.  However, if you look strictly at what they did at Michigan State, Tom Izzo is the superior coach.

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

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Hondo Carpenter