Frustrated Izzo returns from suspension
By NOAH TRISTER
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Tom Izzo began by saying he didn't want to talk any more about his one-game suspension.
Then he found it hard to hold back.
The Michigan State coach is in charge of his team again after sitting out Saturday night's game for a secondary violation of NCAA rules related to a summer basketball camp. At his news conference Monday, Izzo tried to look ahead to the 12th-ranked Spartans' big game with 18th-ranked Texas this week, but it wasn't easy.
Izzo appeared stunned last week by the severity of the penalty, and although Michigan State won easily in his absence, he was still disappointed about all of the drama.
"I'm making my last statement about it, because it was one of the worst and most embarrassing things of my coaching career," Izzo said. "I served my sentence and I'm moving on."
Izzo didn't discuss any specifics about the violation, but as he answered follow-up questions, his frustration was obvious. Michigan State said Friday that the school employed someone associated with a potential recruit during a basketball camp in June. The person was paid $475 for five days of working with middle school-aged campers.
Michigan State said the person employed at the camp wasn't accompanied by the prospect and didn't have any contact with the prospect while coaching at the camp. The NCAA has been trying to address employment-for-access issues involving people associated with recruits, and encouraged the suspension.
"There's certain things about it that bother me so much I'm not going to give a platform to it," Izzo said. "I don't need to be backed on this. This isn't anything I need to be backed on, believe it or not. They made the decisions they made, I will make the future decisions I make."
Izzo, who is president of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said the penalty he received for a secondary violation was severe compared to what might have happened previously.
"These were hand slaps. These were, you turn yourself in. They've escalated," he said. "We have to take our game back a little bit. We, meaning all the coaches, have to figure out what is right. ... There are so many good guys out there, good coaches, and we are making our profession look like it's the Keystone Cops and it's Bonnie and Clyde."
The Spartans didn't have much trouble without Izzo on Saturday night, beating Prairie View A&M 90-51. They'll face a much tougher task when they host Texas on Wednesday night.
Michigan State (8-3) entered the season as a Final Four contender but has been a bit banged up while facing a difficult schedule. The Spartans have lost to Connecticut, Duke and Syracuse and could use a victory over a respected team like Texas.
"I think this will be arguably the best team we've brought in here in a few years," Izzo said. "I think it's the most talented team that we might've played all year so far, as far as NBA basketball athlete talent."
Michigan State starts Big Ten play after the Texas game -- all the more reason Izzo would like to move past this latest distraction. It won't soon be forgotten, though.
"If there's no controversy, it's probably boring. I kind of like controversy," Izzo said. "I like myself more when I'm ticked off, and right now I like myself a lot. Read between the lines."
Dec. 21, 2010