When Michigan State hired Mel Tucker in February 2020, he was forced to hit the ground running, but he made one thing clear: a new and improved culture was coming to East Lansing.
More than 17 months later, Tucker addressed a room filled with reporters at the 2021 Big Ten Media Days, calling it "a dream come true."
After a hectic first season, the coaching veteran received leniency from media and fans alike, but he's not interested in using the pandemic as an excuse.
"People tell me, 'Coach, for you, this is really like year one,'" said Tucker. "No, it's not year one; it's year two. We've got to get this thing moving. There's a sense of urgency in our program, in our building, and I'm excited about that."
Throughout Tucker's near 10-minute opening statement, he didn't sound like a leader destined to finish last in the Big Ten East Division, as many have predicted.
He spoke with genuine excitement while raving about the progress made this offseason.
"We have the pieces in place, the staff, the support staff. We have the resources. We have the infrastructure. We have created a winning culture, a winning mindset," Tucker said. "Culture is everything. When you step in our building, whether you're a recruit, you're a player, it feels different now. You can tell that we're moving in the right direction."
Following another loss at Penn State to wrap up his debut season, Tucker immediately began making changes to Michigan State's roster. As a result, the Spartans welcomed 34 new players that weren't here last year, including his first recruiting class and an abundance of transfers (18 overall).
Even so, there is work to be done, and Tucker won't stop until he's built a successful program.
"We need to gain ground. We're behind. We're playing catchup. The competitiveness of our roster, that has increased tremendously because of recruiting. Guys know that they're going to have to bring it each and every day in order to get on the field, and that's what we want. Guys are embracing that. They know they're getting better," said Tucker. "They know they're going to have to compete. We're just going to keep our head down and continue to go to work. We do have a chip on our shoulder. We really do. We have got a lot to prove."
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