Tom Izzo’s PTI Interview: Expectations Versus Reality

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo was interviewed by the hosts of “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday, March 30. What he said about his team’s Final Four berth was refreshingly honest, compared to what you might expect from the typical college coach.

Question: We didn’t expect this kind of run from your team. Be honest with us: did you?

Expectation: Absolutely. We’ve got a lot of kids with good motors, and we might be the Davids versus the Goliaths, but these kids, you know, they really have the will to win, and you’ve just gotta coach ’em up. I expect nothing less than to cut down those nets. One Shining Moment, baby. Unless we don’t win, because these kids are gonna play their hearts out, and leave it all on the court, and other cliches.    

Reality: Well, I can’t say I really did, if I was being honest… we’re not great, but we’re not bad, either.

Q: You’ve been in more Final Fours than any other coach this century. ANY OTHER COACH. Is there something you know that they don’t know?

Expectation: Yes, Tony, I’m glad you asked. I have many secrets to my coaching success. One of them: Old Spice. It helps me believe in mysmellf. As for the others, you’ll have to read about them in my book, I Love Basketball So Much, by me, of course. I came up with the title and everything! Some guy with glasses wrote most of it, but it’s my face on the cover, right? Once again, that’s I Love Basketball So Much, available at Borders, or wherever books are sold. I mean, not Borders… the one with the B that’s not out of business.

Reality: Better get good assistants, and I’m not saying the best players, because we’ve got good players, but I know some have higher-ranked players. It’s the players that deserve a lot of the credit, and I mean that wholeheartedly.

Q: Every year the uber recruits, the celebrity recruits, they seem to go elsewhere. and I wonder, does it matter to you? Do you want those uber one-and-done guys?

Expectation: Never! My players are perfect in every way; they are the best combination of players one could possibly assemble from the entire human race. Except when I yell at them, but they’re perfect then, too, because they do whatever I say, and they don’t tattle to the administration about my “enhanced motivation tactics.” But you could give me Olajuwon, Jordan, and LeBron in their prime; I wouldn’t take them. You could put Air Bud on my team, and I’d let the walk-on freshman chemistry major take the game-winning shot any day.

Reality: Sure I do! Everybody wants the best players, and I’m no different than anyone else.

Q: In March, you are consistently better than you were prior to March. And it’s not just this year; it’s year after year after year. Without being modest, why is that? What do you do in March that makes your team significantly better?

Expectation: Well, I have God on my side. If you look at it objectively, I’m the most religious of all the Division I coaches. When my kids shoot, I know an angel’s gonna catch all the airballs mid-flight and guide them into the hoop. Did you know that Krzyzewski is Catholic? I’m pretty sure that’s one of those crazy religions that lets women wear jeans.

Reality: You know, I think it’s what we do in November and December that makes our team significantly better. We’ve always had almost the most losses [of the Final Four teams]. I’ve got an AD who’s crazy, and we’re playing on aircraft carriers, we’re playing in Germany, we’re playing on football fields at Ford Field.

Q: How many green ties do you actually own?

Expectation: I own as many green ties as my handlers purchase from Tie Supply. They have all the shades: lime, kelly, forest, olive, pistachio, even Kermit. You can collect them all for just $900, or get the autographed versions for $1800! They’re perfect to wear while you’re lobbying the NCAA not to vacate my wins.

Reality: Two games ago I didn’t wear one, so you weren’t very observant! I’ve got 550,000 alums, and 500,000 of those alums e-mailed me and said, “Why aren’t you wearing a green tie?” When you’ve been here as long as I have, you’ve got every kind of green tie known to man. I can’t wear the same one more than ten times, or my wife gets mad.


As if you needed another reason to root for Michigan State in the Final Four.