It's been a not-so-typical season in East Lansing for Michigan State basketball. What originally seemed like another strong campaign was marred by big injuries before the season started, followed up with inconsistencies in production, and culminated by a senior leader being lost for the season.
But nevertheless, Michigan State is right in the thick of it as the calendar has turned to March. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo recently went one-on-one with radio personality Jim Rome discussing various topics. He opened with having to navigate through a roller coaster season.
“We’ve just had some bizarre injuries, including our two 6’ 9” guys (Ben Carter and Gavin Schillling). We might be the smallest team in America, and then Eron Harris went down a couple weeks ago, a senior,” Izzo said. “I thought we played one of our best basketball games and Wisconsin has a very good team. They’ve been up and down a little bit lately, but it was a big win for us, and it was a sweet win and kind of keeps us alive, and that’s where you want to be at this time of year.”
Izzo also talked about having to work with one of, if not the best freshman class during his 22-year tenure at MSU. As the season has progressed, he's found himself using them together more and more, somewhat uncharted waters for the Hall of Fame coach.
But he said doing so has given him new-found respect for a fellow Hall of Fame head coach, Kentucky's John Calipari, who has built a reputation of coaching up and working with freshman studs.
“I learned I had a better appreciation for John Calipari and what he does every year,” Izzo said. “We’re playing four freshman. I’ve started all four of them at one time, and there is a process to all this. My freshman aren’t quite the caliber his are in some cases, but it makes you appreciate that it’s in February, and you’re still doing fundamental work. It’s kind of been good for me though. I finally had to admit to everybody that I hadn’t been through it either. So when I talked to our players about that, it broke the ice and think now we’ve kind of rallied around each other together, and we’ve won what, four out of five, and we’re playing a lot better basketball.”
The interview with Rome was concluded with one Magic Johnson, who was recently hired by the Lakers to be the president of basketball operations out in Los Angeles. Izzo said the timing could not be any better and he had a feeling it'd come to fruition when the Lakers originally hired him in a consultant role weeks prior.
“I think he’s in the perfect place for that right now,” Izzo said. “I think he’s built companies, he’s done an unbelievable job in business, and yet, I think he’s gotten those companies to the point where, he wouldn’t commit to the Lakers, I think the Lakers and the Spartans are still his two favorite teams. There’s no way he would commit to them if he wasn’t ready to dive in.”
“I started laughing. I said you know, it’s just not his style if he goes in, he’s going in hook line and sinker,” Izzo said. “I’ll be shocked if he’s not successful. I just think he’s got a quality that few human beings have, he puts winning in front of everything. And oh, he’s struggled in a few things like everybody and everybody wants to point to that. I think he’s been successful at a lot more things than he’s struggled in, and I think it’s going to be great for the Lakers, and I know it’s great for us here at Michigan State, and I just enjoy watching what’s going to happen there. [I] think we all are going to learn a lot good lessons.”