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Oct. 10, 2023

Podcast: Tom Izzo previews 2022-23 Spartans men's basketball season

Hall of Fame Michigan State University Spartans Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Izzo previews the 2023-24 season.

In his opening comments, Izzo says he’s “excited to be back,” and he says he loves his team. He says he’s proud of his blue-collar program, too.

Conversation Highlights:

(3:37) – “We’re a week away from Midnight Madness. It’s important that we reengage after a lot of what we’ve been through the last couple years.”

(4:55) – “We also have two exhibition games.”

(6:26) – “I have seen our team in the Top 5 and Top 10. People have asked me if I like that. And I always say no; I love it. We’re looking forward to living up to expectations.”

(7:48) – Izzo on his seniors

(9:07) – Izzo on his juniors

(10:05) – Izzo on his sophomores

(11:18) – Izzo on his freshmen

(14:18) – More on Coen Carr and the pros and cons of summer basketball. “It gives our players a chance to learn how to act in front of people. They’re really good kids. I’m blessed with what I have right now.”

(16:24) – On the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, the importance of high school coaches, and the state of college basketball. “It’s the Jud Heathcote rule, 27 years later, that the most important human beings on the planet are high school coaches. I really do believe that.”

(18:48) – More on Jeremy Fears and Tom’s thoughts on competition making the team better. “Mateen was my best freshman leader. There have only been a couple guys – Mateen and Tum Tum – who have ‘it.’ Jeremy Fears has ‘it.’”

(21:14) – As he looks around college basketball, his thoughts on reduced opportunities for freshmen because of the portal. “I’m going to do what I do. And sooner or later it’s probably going to get me. I’m going to have fun in the meantime, and I’m going to enjoy the fight to keep my program based on relationships and not transactions. At Michigan State, there are a couple things that aren’t going to change until the day I walk off this stage. We’re going to stay a blue-collar place. The second thing is relationships matter to me.”

(25:58) – On the depth at the guard position. “I’ve done some things for players they better appreciate. I could have gone into the portal, too. They could have gone; I could have gone. I trusted and believed in them. I think they trusted and believed in me. What a great marriage and a great opportunity.”

(29:25) – More on Carson Cooper. “Right now, I have as good a staff as I’ve had.”

(31:32) – On how he will balance talented upperclassmen with a stellar freshmen class. “I have to sell winning and personal success. That is a challenge. Winning brings personal success. Personal success doesn’t always bring winning.”

(34:26) – More on Jaden Akins. “Jaden can be one of the best two-way players, not just in the league, but in the whole country.”

(36:24) – On what role he’ll play in finding MSU’s next football coach. “I’m a sounding board. That doesn’t mean I’m in on the decision making. Whatever Alan needs me to do, I’m suiting up and I’m there for him.”

(39:25) – Do you feel any more weight than you normally would to give your fan base, alumni, students and faculty something with this basketball team? “Yes. I’m not excited that I have to feel that way, but I’m proud that I get the opportunity to represent the 650,000 living alumni and a lot of good friends of mine and a lot of people who have done a lot of good for this place. I feel it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to help bring us closer together.” 

(43:31) – On the prospects of winning a second national championship. “Do I say it’s Final Four or National Championship or bust? I say that’s the goal. I’m realistic enough to know there are a lot of factors.”

(47:36) – You seem to be speaking with more bravado this season… “We and I have earned what we’ve got. We’ve been through a lot of tough times both on and off the court. We’re still standing. Let’s take advantage of that and stay focused the best we can. I hope that I can bring this place that I love so much what we deserve and make people feel good and smile.”

(50:52) – Where do you see the need for the most improvement? “The biggest thing right now is that we have to become a better rebounding team. I’m most excited that I have a group of guys together that have had options to leave and who have stayed. I want to try to win another championship someday. But I also want to keep this the great place I know it is. If that’s pressure and the weight of the world, that’s what I signed up for, and, more importantly, that’s what I get to do.”

Listen to “MSU Today with Russ White” on the radio and through SpotifyApple Podcasts, and wherever you listen.

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