My inbox has been littered with email from Spartan fans. As addictive as the NCAA tournament is, after the Spartans upset loss to MTSU 90-81 many are telling me, “I just can’t watch.” That is understandable. The term fan is short for fanatic.
But does future Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo feel the same? His answer may shock you.
“It was difficult, but it wasn’t as difficult as you think, because I love the game. And so, when you love the game, like last night I watched a women’s game, I watched a couple other games, I watched Day-Day’s game. I love the game. So did I just tune it out like I hear some people? Was it hard to watch? Yeah, disappointing to watch. It wasn’t difficult to watch because I watched what other teams did. I did figure out that if I’m 12 up with 40 seconds left, I just might throw the ball in the air and let the clock run out. I figured that out. So I learned something from each game I watched. And there were tougher things to learn than what I went through. A team earned their way. The first thing Denzel said to me, ‘Wow, I would rather have lost the way we lost than have lost that way.’ So you know, people down there are probably saying something different. It’s an interesting profession. But I love watching games. I’ve watched them, I can’t say I watched them with the same vigor I would have if we were playing Friday night, but I watched them.”
Not playing this early in the tournament is foreign territory for Izzo. That is why he is called Mr. March. So in this untested foreign territory can he learn anything?
“I’m not sure I do either, right now. I’m in the process of taking things out of it, but it’s kind of a cool problem to have. Just think of the way you asked the question. This is foreign. It’s different. It doesn’t mean, there were things a couple of years that I was angry about. It was easier. We didn’t do a good enough job. Last year we did not defend the dribble drive and they went to the free throw line a thousand times and that’s the way the game ended and I was mad about that and I figured I was gonna do a better job at that. Early in the year there were games where it seemed like it was the free throws, we corrected that. I wish I had a way to correct it. Putting a towel behind my back or above my head would correct this I would do it. But I think Fred told me one time because all he talks about is baseball, that it was Sparky Anderson that says the other team is good too. Well good doesn’t mean you have to be good for an extended period of time, you can be good for one game. I don’t know what they shot in most games, but I had film and must have watched 15 films on them, I’ve never seen them shoot like that. I don’t think there were teams that were all better defensively than we were. They shot the ball well, they played well. I just wish I could blame it on an official, it would be easier. I’d be pretty good at that. But I can’t. I gotta take the blame myself. If that means there’s blame it’s just what we did and people aren’t used to that either. I don’t think there’s any … just understand it doesn’t have to be a player. It doesn’t have to be my father’s death. It doesn’t have to be that I’m getting older and losing it. It sometimes can be another team played well and our team did not play as well. But usually when you don’t play well, usually, is in the offensive end. Usually you just have that night where you miss shots, they don’t go in and this and that. It is uncharacteristic for two guards to turn it over 11 times without a lot of pressure? Yes, that’s uncharacteristic. But uncharacteristic if you want to talk about things that don’t happen, I’m not sure we’ve ever shot 56 percent from the field and 46 or 8 from three and lost. I’m not sure ever, ever in my whole career. So there’s a couple of unique things that happened and I just look at it that that’s what happened. I wish I could give you a better answer because it sure would be easier.”
Izzo may not have all the answers, but the fact Izzo will be back on the bench next season is all the balm you need for your wounds from the loss. Let there be no doubt, Izzo and the Spartan Nation will be back.