It is no secret that Tom Izzo is not a fan of the Wolverines. So every rivalry week the media runs to the Breslin for what will be sure fire great quotes. Quotes that make media reporting better and frankly the quotes that you the fans love to hear. They are red meat to the faithful and fuel the passion of dislike among the rivalries base. A lot of coaches temper their comments, not Tom Izzo.
He was asked about his disdain of the Wolverines and he jumped in with both feet. ““Well you’ve got to understand, that’s kind of a strange statement to me. My disdain is, I’ve said you can’t love your rivals. I mean, that’s illegal. Last year I made a comment and as always everything gets taken out of context. You’ve got to understand what I went through at the beginning of my career here and the end of my career here as an assistant. I’m not going to get into it, but it was ugly. And so that I disdain. Now Tommy Amaker I love. He was great. And you can say ‘well you beat them.’ They beat us some at the end too. But it’s more about respecting the program. I have great respect for their program. I have great respect for John Beilein. I have respect for their players. I don’t like anybody that I play, personally, but it’s illegal to like your rivals. It’s not illegal to respect them.”
He couldn’t stop there, Izzo opined, “And when you look at the difference of over the years, there’s a one major difference. Like I respected Bo Schembechler since I was this big. I respected Woody Hayes. I respected Lloyd Carr. So I can go on and on and on about what I respect and what I didn’t respect. There were some things I didn’t respect. But I think it would have been the same if it was vice versa. So, don’t get caught up in my hatred, my this and that. There’s no animosity. There’s just a competitive side of everybody that you’ve got to do something. And if those cards are changed where there’s things that go on that you don’t respect and you put a lot of time and work in, then hate gets in. But there’s no, they’ve done it an incredible way, they’ve built it the way they’re supposed to build it. I think that was started earlier. Part of it’s been to the commitment to basketball there. The commitment to facilities. It’s been done the right way there. That’s all I ask.”
Izzo has been around this for a quarter of a century. Is there a game that sticks out? “I could go all the way back to the Skiles and era that was probably more than 25 years. For me, my first win. After getting our brains beat in five times the first win, it was good at least for four or five hours. It was fun for four or five hours. I’d say those, probably the first win was still the one that was the biggest to me because somewhere along the line you had to break through. We weren’t able to do that and we were, things at least got on a more level state for a while after that. That’s what you hope for in games like this, so that first one was probably a big one.”
So what does Izzo think when people exclaim that MSU doesn’t get respect? He hates it. “The one thing I stressed to my players, I hate the ‘We don’t get respect’ thing, so I’m hoping nobody used that cause I think we get a lot of respect. I think they’ve earned their respect. They’ve accomplished something, they’ve done something. They’ve withstood it here being in the top five for two and a half or three months, whatever it’s been. So I don’t know if there’s any more of an edge, I don’t’ know if you need any more edge. You’re playing your rival; it’s the first time in the history of our two schools, according to my incredible stat man, that we’ve both been ranked in the top 10.”
Izzo know that this game is played on the court. No fans, no coaches will be in the paint or pushing the ball. He talked about the match ups. ” (Glenn F) Robinson (III) isn’t small, he’s a little smaller. At the center between (Mitch F) McGary and (Jordan F) Morgan, they’re pretty much the same there. They’re a little bigger at the guard as far as with height with (Tim G) Hardaway (Jr). With (Nik G)Stauskas, don’t know exactly how big he is, I’d say that Dawson’s definitely bigger and stronger but not necessarily a lot taller. So I don’t know if the matchup in that respect matters as much. They’re a team that does a lot of their work on the perimeter and we’ve been a little more balanced, probably. We definitely think we have to do the job inside. They’ve been a better rebounding team than they have been over the years. McGary has helped that a lot, Robinson helps it some. So matching up it’s gonna be, I think for both teams, it’s not like they’re overly deep either. Look at they are playing a lot of guys in the 30 minutes and they have not fouled much. In a game like this with the emotions, I think that will be part of the game, who gets in foul trouble and who doesn’t, who gets into who’s bench and who doesn’t.”
With all of the attention Izzo and the fans put on this game is there a danger of getting to emotional? Izzo addressed that as a major concern. “Sure it happens all of the time. It is easier in football. I think always people get too amped up in games like this. Maybe it happened to Michigan at Ohio State a couple of weeks ago. You have a couple of guys from Ohio. Nice problem to have. I think every coach would rather the problem of ‘too’ rather than ‘less’ and that is why football is a better sport. You can go and hit somebody and get rid of it. Where in basketball, if you foul you are in trouble. I have always said I would rather it too much than too little, but there is no question in basketball with the shooting and everything you’ve got to figure out a way to temper it. I think we will. This team is kind of, I wouldn’t say gets overly excited for any games, but I wouldn’t say got down for any games either. We’ve kind of been more in the middle. I am not that way, but they are and that is probably good in these kind of games.”