By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Fresh off a trip to Indianapolis to watch the Michigan State football team play for the Big Ten championship, Spartans head basketball coach Tom Izzo has gained a fresh perspective.
Izzo’s team had just lost 79-65 a few days earlier in East Lansing to a North Carolina team that had been defeated by UAB and Belmont. Izzo took his basketball players to see watch their football counterparts play for the Big Ten title.
It was first and foremost an exercise in camaraderie, but the trip benefited Izzo in other ways also.
“I came back and analyzed myself a little bit,” Izzo said. “What are we doing right now? Where are we coming from after that North Carolina game? It was one of my more disappointing games as far as what we did and how we played, and the next day it gets a little better as you go and you look at it.”
Izzo said one reason for the Spartans’ struggles has been an attempt to tone down the physicality and avoid racking up so many fouls. In response to adjustments in the rules that direct referees to crack down on hand-checking, Izzo brought in officials to several days of practice before the season started to see how games would be called.
After watching the football team’s aggressive approach – particularly that of the cornerbacks – prevail against then-No. 2 Ohio State, though, Izzo was convinced he should embrace the physical aspect of his team rather than limit it.
“I’ve done a poor job with our rules,” Izzo said. “I’ve gotten paranoid. I brought officials in to practice [because] you can’t be as physical because you can’t have 50 fouls in a game, all this stuff and that stuff. I thought back to our going down to Notre Dame and watching our football team there, the game, because we had all those fouls and penalties on those defensive backs.
“What I realized is, I’m sure [the football team] made a few adjustments, I’m sure officials made a few adjustments, but we stuck to what we do, and right now we’ve got maybe four of the better d-backs in the Big Ten or in the country because they stuck to what they do,” Izzo continued. “So one thing I said is we’ve got to get more physical, and that’s not the players – they’re the same guys that played last year – it’s maybe the rules and the coach.”
Whether or not Izzo caused any problem by emphasizing fewer fouls, he will not be going down that road any longer.
“I came up to the answer that Tom Izzo’s got to do a better job of coaching to his personality and what he is,” Izzo said. “Let the officials call what they want.”
Izzo said it was a great experience for his team to see the football game. However, he did not approve of the manner in which thousands of fans in East Lansing chose to celebrate the victory.
Students took the streets, burning couches, mattresses, large tree branches and more, creating riots that required significant police intervention. There were at least 57 fires and 15 arrests.
According to ESPN, Izzo said he was disappointed and disgusted by the behavior.