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The First Day of the Rest of the MSU Basketball Program's Life

I thought Mr. Brennan summed things up nicely last night:

Something of a spectacle here, wherein everyone's right and everyone's wrong at the same time. Can we just talk about hoops, please?

Running through the rights and wrongs:

  • Mark Hollis was right to criticize the media for being more focused on being first than on being right.  The media outlets that picked up the WFNY "report" should be particularly embarrassed of themselves; that one didn't even pass the smell test.
  • Hollis was wrong to imply that the media picking up blog/twitter/online reports was the only problem here.  There were plenty of reports from unnamed "sources" originating directly from the mainstream media that now look highly dubious.
  • Tom Izzo was right to question the way many in the media went about their business over the 9 days this was a major news story--particularly those that don't cover the basketball program on a regular basis but then emerge with strong opinions when a big story happens (see my complaint about this phenomenon here).
  • Izzo was wrong to throw all the media into the same category.  And he shouldn't have been so shocked at the high level of interest in what was going on.  That's part of being an "elite" program (as he conceded at the end).  Was he really shocked that a text message sent to a news reporter would end up being reported in the media?
  • Generally, I thought Izzo's opinions about the media were fine--they reflect his view of the world right now--but he should have made his point forcefully and then moved on, instead of coming back to the same theme in many of his responses.
  • Lynn Henning was right to say that it was wrong for Simon/Hollis/Izzo to offer blanket indictments of the media.
  • Small problem: Henning was clearly one of the media members who deserved to be indicted--the #1 example of a sports columnist who doesn't cover the team regularly but fancies himself an expert on Izzo's thoughts/feelings.  Henning pretended to read Izzo's mind (and heart) and tell him what he should do, and was then dumb enough to try to serve as the media's public defender.  Obviously, that didn't work out well for him.

(Personal note: I trust that when Izzo complained about "bloggers," he was actually complaining about "message boards," since TOC is, you know, the most widely-read independent MSU sports blog [admittedly not a stupendous achievement given the state of the Spartan blogosphere].  The fact that he specifically referenced the "Red Cedar" [Message Board, presumably] is reassuring.  I did my darndest to cover this story comprehensively over the last week and a half, consistent with the magnitude of the impact Izzo's departure would have had on the program, without spreading unsubstantiated rumors along the way.  I need to go back and read everything I wrote; I hope it holds up well.)


Overall, it was refreshing to see the Tom Izzo we all know and love back in the public eye, offering honest and direct answers about Dan Gilbert (major factor in considering gig), LeBron James (ditto), and the conversations he had with his family and former players (major factor in staying; thank you, again, Raquel Izzo for your devotion to MSU).  Unfortunately, the university-vs.-media stuff overwhelmed the other portions of Izzo's comments.

In a few months, last night's events will all be a footnote in the history of the Michigan State basketball program.  Izzo sounded as hungry as ever to add to the successes he's already had, talking specifically about winning a championship next year.  (Note: One key piece in the quest to do that, Chris Allen, was in the room but not on the stage.  Hard to know exactly how to read that.  Probably a slightly positive indicator, given that all signs had been pointing to him having already departed campus for parts unknown.)

In the end, the process Izzo went through was largely consistent with what we thought in our rational moments amidst all the worried-fan-angst-driven uncertainty: He felt obligated to explore what was probably the best NBA coaching opportunity he would ever be presented with (he called it "once-in-a-lifetime"), but ultimately the uncertainty of the situation in Cleveland and the passion for what he's built in East Lansing kept him at Michigan State.

To the extent Izzo dragged this out an extra 24 hours beyond the optimal announcement point, he more than made up for it with his "here for life at Michigan State" statement (his spoken comments fully backing up the written statement that was issued before the press conference).  That's exactly the kind of reassurance MSU players, recruits, fans, and supporters needed to hear.  And, to me, it came across as entirely genuine.  If he didn't make the leap to go work for an NBA owner he obviously admires and potentially coach the most talented basketball player in the modern NBA, he's never going to leap.

Onward and forward.  Tom Izzo is still, and always, a Spartan.  Go Green.