Madness within March Madness? That’s a given, but one person’s anger sparked widespread reactions in the college basketball world over the weekend.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo ignited social media after his outburst in the first round of the tournament. During a timeout against the Bradley Braves, Izzo fiercely approached freshman forward Aaron Henry and laid into him, coming within inches of Henry’s face as he roared.
It was one of the highlights of the first round, on or off the court. Fortunately, players and coaches pulled Izzo back and helped him refocus on the next play. Michigan State needed his composure. For most of the game, No.15 seed Bradley kept within single digits of the Spartans, until Michigan State pulled away at the end.
It was nothing new for Izzo and his team. Back in 2016, the Spartans locked in a first round dogfight with No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee. Michigan State lost that game in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
Given the history, Coach Izzo’s outburst might have been warranted.
In an interview with ESPN, Izzo stressed the fact that Henry’s mistake was “effort-related.” He explained that he was furious, in part, because Henry didn’t hustle back on defense.
Izzo was unapologetic.
“He did make a couple of big buckets. He did make some big free throws but that’s not good enough. It’s one-and-done time. The ‘my bads’ are out the window.”
Aside from the defensive mistake, Izzo was furious with Henry’s overall performance because, in his words, he made mistakes that were inexcusable for a player as good as Henry is.
The freshman finished the game with 8 points and 5 turnovers. Izzo expressed his disappointment and made it clear that he always expect the best from his players.
Former Michigan State player and NBA star Draymond Green chimed in on the situation via Twitter:
“So, Young Fella keep standing up for yourself and don’t back down. And Iz keep leading the program! We on a mission.”
Other basketball personalities went to social media to back up Tom Izzo’s actions. College basketball analyst Seth Greenberg provided insight on the normality of the situation.
“If you have ever been around Tom Izzo and his players you would understand the special relationship he has with them. You would understand that they appreciate him, his passion and him holding them accountable.”
The “victim” in the situation, Aaron Henry gave his take on his encounter with Coach Izzo; in an interview with ESPN:
“I’ve heard worse from him, I’ve got it worse in practice before.”
So, Coach Izzo’s outburst was no big deal, according to the very players themselves.
After their victory over Bradley, Michigan State moved on to defeat Minnesota in the second round. The Spartans won that game 70-50 and advance to the Sweet 16, where they will face LSU on Friday in Washington.