Did Michigan State Coach Go Too Far?: Tom Izzo Lights Into Upperclassmen And Appears To Call One Of His Players An Expletive

Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo was not pleased with his team’s performance on Monday. The No. 4-ranked Spartans were upset by James Madison University 79-76 in OT.

Gane footage shows Izzo yelling at senior center Mady Sissoko on the bench, and referring to him as an expletive.

After the game, Izzo threatened to play freshmen instead of upperclassmen

“I don’t have a good answer why three juniors and seniors played like they played, but I also don’t care, because I’ll play some freshmen then,” said Izzo in his postgame media availability. “Let the controversy begin.”

Did Izzo Refer To A Player As An Expletive?

In a video posted on social media platform X, by user @travis_jones11, Izzo is seen yelling at Sissoko on the bench at the start of the second half. As Izzo walks back to his seat and begins to sit down he is seen pointing at Sissoko and saying to assistant coach Doug Wojick what appears to be “f***ing a**hole.”

The video appears to be a cellphone recording of the television broadcast, so there is no audio of Izzo. You can only attempt read Izzo’s lips.

Whether Izzo said an expletive or not is one thing, but this brings up a larger issue in the culture of sports. What sort of person do we want in positions like head coaches?

There is a segment of the sports viewing population that long for the days of Izzo, the late Bobby Knight, etc. The drill sergeant who gets into a player’s face and screams and yells. Beyond the optics, is it effective? How do we know if it’s effective?

What Kind Of People Do We Want As Coaches?

That same group of people who champion that type of coaching bemoan the “softness” of todays players and love to wax poetically about “back in my day.” Beyond anecdotal evidence, is there anything empirical that says that athletes today don’t want to or can’t be coached hard?

Yelling or screaming is sometimes warranted, particularly if you need to communicate the level of urgency you don’t believe is present. Is that how most coaches use it?

Izzo is a legendary coach who has had more than one of these types of incidents. Some of it you can chalk up to competitiveness and others an inability to do things differently.

As a head coach you are ultimately judged on wins and losses, and that “winner take all” mentality breeds a certain type of behavior in many. But what if as a head coach, still with the understanding that you’ll be judged by wins and losses, your first thought was to inspire and lead? Maybe the entire sports industrial complex would look different.

It’s early, the Spartans will have plenty of time to work out the kinks from the loss to JMU, where they shot an abysmal 1-for-20 from the three-point line and a subpar 23-for-37 mark from the free throw line. How Izzo chooses to get them better from there will go a long way in determining what kind of season they have.

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