Tom Izzo Talks As His Spartans Start the 2013-2014 Campaign
We’re starting 21 days earlier than we did last year. I think there’s plusses to it. I was a fan of it because I think it gives us a chance that we don’t have to get our players going and just kill them the first week or two. I think it’s gonna be a plus in the long run. I am a little concerned, cause starting out no matter how many days you take off there’s still the mental grind that adds three weeks to the season. I’m for it in every way but I’m concerned in how we handle it.
How is the health of your team as you start?
Gary’s not and Denzel, believe it or not, they don’t know if he got a spider bite or what but his hand is swelled up about this big. He won’t practice probably the first couple days. There’s nothing wrong, there’s no injury, there’s no break, it’s just an infection I guess of some kind in his hand. Gary I think will do some things today but I’m gonna be a little more, it’s so early in the year even through we’re practicing, I think he’s a week away from doing things that are physical in any way, shape or form.
With the season starting early how will you do things differently or will it all stay the same?
I’m gonna do probably a lot of the things similar in the practice. What I might do is have two days on, maybe two days off, two days on two days off, and then three days on, one day off to try to gradually get them to what it’s gonna be with six days on and one day off during the week.
Are you excited about expectations for this team?
I’m excited about it. I think in the last 15 years we’ve been a top 20 program, top 15 program a lot, top 10 enough, but there is a difference when you’re top 5. Like I said though, within a couple years I’ve seen be number one and be out in the first round and be number one and be to a Final Four.
I hope the players are as smart as I am in that respect and know it’s just a ranking, like everything else. I think we deserve to be a highly-ranked team, but I think there’s a lot of other teams that do too. So hopefully that ranking, we can live up to those expectations.
What do you think of your chemistry?
I am pleased with the chemistry. I’m still on question with the leadership. It’s been an ongoing thing, I think it’s an ongoing problem with a lot of teams. We actually just met for an hour about it. Instead of meeting on practice we met on that, because maybe I’m looking for too much.
Maybe I’m looking for the Cleaves, the Waltons, the Draymonds, the vocal guys that really get after it, and maybe I gotta look for the guy that’s respected the most by them and in some way, not lead by example cause I hate that term, but find a way to get guys to do things the right way in a different way, maybe not as boisterous. So we’re looking at that too.
When will you decide on captains?
I think it’ll be a week or so, maybe even two. If there’s been one negative with the recruiting and this new way of doing things, we had to really pack everything in. I was on the road probably more than I’ve ever been for a couple weeks, because trying to be here a little more. Once we go two days off I’m gonna be on the road for two days, just the ways it’s gonna be.
I haven’t been here as much and I tried to rush through our two-hour workouts and had one on a Sunday. But there hasn’t been as much time to sit down with guys and do the things I think we need to do. And yet we have a lot of time left. So I think in the next week or two – I mean, we have an idea of what we’re looking at and I think the players will too. But I think it’s important.
We brought those Navy Seals guy in early in the week and one of the reasons is to get different opinions on number one, what leadership’s all about, what you have to demand to be a leader. And who in their drills looks like would be a leader. And so we’re gonna be talking to them a little bit more, talking to our players a little bit more. And trying to make this a bigger deal than normal. Because I still believe without one, you’re in trouble and I think it’s got to be one or two guys. Not just a group like I’ve tried in the past.
Who will vote? Coaches? Players? Both?
Tough question. I mean, the players are always gonna have the most input, but I won’t say it’ll be just players. It’s gonna be all of us. It’s gonna be the program. The program’s gonna decide who the captains are. And the program, I am gonna look at all the people who touch them, all the people who have an opinion, because I think it’s that important of a deal. So I don’t think it’s gonna be just the players, I don’t think it’s gonna be just the coaches.
Are you pleased with Appling’s maturation and ability to lead?
I could. I didn’t see as much in that area. I’ve seen a lot this summer as far as the other areas of Keith, that I’ve been really excited about impressed with. And I’ve got to realize, too, to some guys it’s a burden. To some guys it’s a pleasure. You know? I just went up to a little deal for Buck Nystrom that they had last weekend and he made a statement there that kind of hit me as hard as anything’s hit me. He said of all the things he’s done – he’s been voted the best offensive line coach, he’s been an Academic All-American, he’s been through five national championships as a player and as an assistant coach – the greatest thrill of his life was being named captain at Michigan State University.
I think somehow I’ve got to get back where that is. I mean, Travis Walton, Draymond Green, that meant the world to them. And it’s been a little bit of a struggle on that. If there is an area of question mark, but I bet you if everybody was honest about it, it’d be a question mark on a lot of teams.
Do you think that all or some are born a leader and some are not?
Yeah, I am, I do believe that. I don’t think everybody is. And I don’t think everybody’s capable of it for a variety of different reasons. But maybe what I’ve got to do a better job of is look at who has the respect of their teammates, not who does it the Tom Izzo way.
Again, not into the lead by example, at all. Cop-out, hate it, despise it. But doesn’t mean you have to grab Joe by the throat, like Mateen did, or do this like Travis did. It doesn’t have to be that way, either.
With the new schedule can you talk about practice changes?
We are going to try and teach a little bit more in this first week and a half instead of having to rush through things. We are going to try and use maybe an off day early that will count as an on day because maybe we will have a two-and-a-half hour film session and go over all the drills and this is what we are looking for.
A lot more teaching, instead of last year, to me, it was start on the 18th. That was the latest day you could start with the way the calendar works then play an exhibition game on the 30th or whatever we played it. That seemed like an NBA deal. I do like this better.
It’s just that we’ve never done it so there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve and to make sure that those guys are fresh, because it’s a long year. If you look at it, it is almost an NBA season now just not with that number of games, but a lot of times practice are as hard as games. When you’re starting a week before the NBA and if they don’t make they playoffs they are done the early part of April, so it’s almost within three weeks of an NBA thing now and that’s a long season.
Does this new schedule elp the freshman?
I think it will help the freshman. I think it will help all our guys because we’re not cramming everything down their throat and they are going to get a better chance to rest. The other thing we did when we only had that many days, we took the 20 hours to the max. We had two-a-days, maybe one session where we just walked through because we were trying to cram everything in.
I think it’s a great move. It’s just that it’s an unknown and all of a sudden you pick a year when you start of the latest possible day last year, which was October the 18th and now you go to the 27th. That’s a big difference and then it’s even been a little bit of a challenge on the recruiting to try and get a bit more done early. It’s just adjustments.”
Are the freshman progressing as you would like them to?
As you can imagine, I’m more worried when you have freshman and you need them is when you lost all your upperclassmen. Kentucky goes through that. I am hoping our freshman keep progressing. I hope they don’t catch the other guys, if that makes any sense. If they do, that means somebody is faltering on the other end. I am worried, well not worried but excited, about everybody because I think we got a lot of guys that can play and I think we are going to play a lot of guys.
Have you formulated in your head a starting lineup yet?
I’m sure I will do what I should do and that is there’s four starters back and right now, Gary will be out, but they will be in that position sort of. Then the fifth one we will go with the experienced guy, which first would be Matt or Alex, but there’s not a starting five. If there is one thing I promised myself I was going to do this year, so I guess everybody should hold me accountable to it.
Everything should be earned every day. I think last year there were times I made guys captain because of default more than any good reason. I think I worry too much over the years about what things look like publicly instead of just looking at what is best for my team. So if guys don’t play, if guys miss classes and there’s consequences, I’m not gonna worry about it.
No insult to Twitter, talk radio, all the things, I think I did a poor job of that at times. I remember one incident in particular and I kinda let that, kinda define me for a year or two. I’ve always believed in this, there is no greater deterrent than playing time.
We got enough players right now that I think we’re gonna see great effort on a consistent basis and if there’s not, that’s gonna be the way I’m gonna deal with it. Less yelling, less this and that, more right to the fact of hitting people where it hits the most.
How is Branden Dawson different?
He’s a different guy, but what that’s gonna do, you may see it today you may not. He’s playing harder, he’s worked harder, he’s spent an incredible amount of time in this gym. And I don’t think he’s even thinking about his injury anymore. I watched some film with him, I definitely think last year, even I couldn’t see it at times, but subliminally he was, there were just vibes that he wasn’t the guy I recruited.
You’ve seen it with RGIII, we got mesmerized with Adrian Peterson. We did, we all did. The whole nation did. The whole world did. And that, to me, Branden Dawson is a freak of nature, RGIII is, Adrian Peterson is, but one of them is and only one was a double freak of nature because it didn’t seem to slow him down an ounce. I actually have grown an appreciation for what Branden went through and I think you’ll see a different guy.
Could you talk about Kenny Kaminski?
I think what he brings is he can really shoot the ball, as a lot of you saw the last month of the season on the scout team. Because of that, you never can have enough shooters and he gives us something off the bench.
Plus if you’ve seen him out there, he’s lost 35 pounds. Kenny looks a lot better, he really does. He lost 32 or 3 or 5 and is better physically and I think he is better mentally. The bigger question now is what he can do laterally. We’ll see if he can guard BJ and people like that.