EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo stepped to the podium on Saturday, exhaled loudly into the microphone and skipped his usual opening statement.
A slim 80-76 home win against 1-7 Oral Roberts did not leave Izzo thrilled. He credited Nick Ward for effort but criticized his conditioning. When it came to his wing players, Izzo didn’t even like the effort.
Izzo went on to talk about competing (or lack thereof), as well as an “AAU mentality” and abundance of participation trophies he says he’s seen in youth sports. (Note: He mentions an Ohio State coach talking about the same thing earlier in the week. The coach he’s presumably referring to, Jeff Walz, actually coaches women’s basketball at Louisville.)
On how he’ll respond to this performance: “Tomorrow we’re practicing twice, maybe three times. And we’re gonna now take all the fatigue and all that and we’re throwing it out the door, and we’re gonna start competing a little better.”
On where he saw positives: “I did think we did a better job in two areas. We got to the free throw line. We made some, 74 percent. We only had 10 turnovers. That was good. We had 19 assists on 24 baskets. That was good. Seven for 20 from the 3, and I swear to you, we had enough open looks early that it should’ve been 12 for 20. Then we’d probably be feeling different. There were some positive things there. We had some blocked shots. There was some positive things.”
On a lack of effort: “I’ve got too many guys with the AAU mentality right now. ‘OK, so I got beat. There’s another (game).’ I’m telling you, it’s getting to be a problem right now. I heard a coach from the Ohio State women’s team go off on it yesterday, and he’s right. What are we teaching our kids? Are we teaching them how to compete, or are we teaching them how to get trophies to put on your bedpost? Last-place trophies, fifth-place trophies, third-place trophies or first-place trophies — it doesn’t mean anything. They’re all the same. That’s what we’re dealing with right now. We’ve got to do a better job as coaches to get that out of them, and then we have to try to understand: Is it practice times? Are they a little fatigued? Or is it what we’re doing? I look at a Josh Langford or an Eron Harris, and those guys are competitors, but they didn’t do that as well today.”
When asked to elaborate: “I just think we’re raised to get a trophy for everything, and we’re raised to always have another game. And that’s not a good mentality. As they say, you should play each game like it’s your last, but that’s not what they’ve done. So it’s hard. It’s hard. I am seeing that, and I think a lot of other coaches are seeing that, and I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the players.”
On how injured star Miles Bridges saw the game from the bench: “When I left, he was still in the locker room. I told him this was his chance to be a leader. This is his chance because you never see it the same from the inside out as you do from the outside in. When you’re sitting there dying to be in there watching some guys maybe not do what they need to do, yeah, he was involved in some timeouts. Him and I talk on the bench. As I said, we’re going to find a silver lining in this cloud of his. He’ll become a better player watching. He really will.”