Rozner: Izzo reactions offers fine glimpse

  • Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo directs his team during a first round men's college basketball game against Bradley in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo directs his team during a first round men's college basketball game against Bradley in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Updated 3/25/2019 11:12 AM

There was a hockey coach, some decades ago, who used the hammer whenever he had to, never shy about sitting a player under the right circumstances.

In particular, he would bench players when they weren't following directions.


There's nothing worse for a hockey player than losing ice time -- game or skate -- and this coach wasn't above sending a kid off the ice during practice and telling him to go sit with his parents.

The parents' response? Good. If the kid doesn't listen, don't let him skate.

Not only was this effective in the short term, but with parents' support it worked well in the long term, and the entire team got the message.

Of course, that was a different era and it probably wouldn't go over well today.

Look, we always hear that every generation is softer than the last, and we know every generation is offended when they hear it.

Maybe it's unfair. Maybe it's not really true. Maybe it's just people screaming about their lawns, unwilling to allow anyone younger in proximity.

But we do seem to have reached a tipping point as it applies to coaching.

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At the professional level, 20-year-olds reach the top having been coddled and enabled the entire way through specialized programs and private coaching.

Bench them and lose them forever. Also a great way to get fired because little is done today without the players' input.

Like it or not, it's just the way it is.

Which brings us to Michigan State's Tom Izzo and the reaction to him yelling at freshman forward Aaron Henry on Thursday, a clip that quickly went viral after the Spartans' opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

As expected, social media lost its mind. It became a political discussion and soon it wasn't about a coach holding a player accountable and giving the proper effort for his teammates.


The hysterics were, frankly, hysterical.

It's not a democracy. You make a choice to play for a college coach, and if you're good enough to play at that level, it's possible you've been yelled at before.

Did Izzo overdo it? Maybe it felt over the top to those of us not inside the program. But we don't know the history between them. We don't know their interaction behind the scenes. We don't know what caused Izzo to get so emotional.

"There's a 10-second sound bite and a two-year relationship (with Henry). I think people don't understand that," Izzo said Friday. "This coach relies on relationships with his players more than any coach in the country.

"You've got to appreciate there's a year and a half of recruiting. There's a year he's been here now. There's hours and hours and hours spent on, 'What do you want to accomplish? What do you need to do to accomplish that? What do you need to do to help our team win?'

"If you don't do those things, what do you think my job is?"

While Izzo was trashed from the outside, nearly every ex-Izzo player backed the coach and every player on the team that was asked about it explained that it's about the message, not the decibel level.

"If you make a mistake, you're going to get chewed out," said Henry's teammate, Xavier Tillman. "That's nothing new. Everybody knows that. All the freshmen know that if you make a mistake, you're going to get coached.

"That's what you're here for. You're going to learn from your mistakes."

Henry did not seem at all bothered, saying, "It's just that sense of knowing that you're getting ready to hear it from him and it's OK.

"He's trying to get you to understand that you can't do that at that time. People are depending on you. The players are depending on you not to mess up at that time."

Seriously, you never played for a coach that screamed at you? Most of us would have a lot of nickels if we had one for every time we were yelled at.

It's really not a big deal.

The bigger deal is what social media is doing to all of us, the box you're placed in depending on how you feel about any event, big or small.

This is the world we live in, where you must be separated into one camp or another. Your politicians -- and hot-take media friends desperate for clicks -- are doing a wonderful job of polarizing this country like never before.

Opinions are unwelcome unless the mob agrees.

The truth is no one was harmed in the making of this video. The player in question will survive. This isn't Bobby Knight kind of stuff here.

It comes down to a simple question: Would you want to play for Izzo or would you want your child playing for him?

If yes, fine. If no, also fine. But if you play for Izzo, he's going to coach you and he's going to be loud at times. That's all there is to this.

It's a personal choice.

But name calling on Twitter or firing away on Facebook is what gets a lot of people through the day. That, however, is not a discussion. It's not reasoned. It's just how we do things now.

In this era of holding hands and skipping rocks -- where the scoreboard causes hurt feelings, when no one is supposed to win or lose -- everything is offensive, everyone is offended and everything is bad.

And it's just so tedious.

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