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April 5, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michigan State.
Q. Coach, you talked yesterday about the symbolism of what this game means for many people, not just in this area, but around Michigan. Talk about what you feel a victory would mean for this city, and why this city yearns so much to have such good news.
COACH IZZO: Well, I mean, it's been a city of champions. If you look at what's been accomplished here, it's just not that long ago, there was a World Series here. I went to the Red Wings win before their final win last year. The Pistons, I've been at a couple of theirs. Joe Louis, it's just been a city of some champions.
What it would mean, I'm sure, like I said, there's a lot of cities right now that have problems. But this is ours. This is our big city in the state. So that's why I think it's a little more meaningful for those of us that are from around here. Even Ray and Travis, who have not resided here for three and four years, they're not that far away either and they have a great appreciation.
KALIN LUCAS: It's a storm in the city, so we're trying to bring sunlight to it.
Q. Can you talk about your philosophy, using timeouts, what you try to accomplish coming out of timeouts.
COACH IZZO: Well, I usually do save mine. I know Ben Howland, when we played them, he uses his early. Sometimes I think I save mine too much. But we've been very effective coming out because they've executed very well. So I guess I have saved mine till the end, a little bit more than some coaches do. Everybody has their own theory and philosophy.
But the way North Carolina makes runs, and they're such devastating runs, never two or four points, they're always eight or 10 or 12 points. We might have to use them more. If we do, we'll hopefully come out of a timeout and run something well then.
But it's the players that have executed it, made the shots, not me.
Q. After you guys lost to Carolina earlier this year, did any of you think you would be here today? Hands.
TRAVIS WALTON: Did we think we was going to be here? We believe in ourselves. We knew we had a great team. We got a great coaching staff. We work hard. This was our goal all along. Even though we had some ups and downs, we still believed we was a great team, even though nobody else believed in us.
RAYMAR MORGAN: I think Travis pretty much covered everything. Like he said, we believe in ourselves since day one. We knew what we could do. We had a goal and everybody just wanted to reach that goal and we worked hard to get here.
Q. How different of a team are you from then to now?
RAYMAR MORGAN: A lot different. Back then G, he wasn't even in the building. Delvon was still facing some injuries. We just had a lot of ups and downs. A lot of guys weren't playing as much and different things like that. I think we're just a more experienced team. We faced a lot of different teams now, different styles of play. I think we're just better.
Q. After your game, during the second game, I saw some of the players walking up through the crowd, talk to people, signing autographs, shaking hands. Was that something you encouraged them to do, embrace all the people around here, see them? For the players, how much do you enjoy seeing everyone?
COACH IZZO: Well, I wanted to watch some of the game, too. But I think part of the opportunity and the falderal around a Final Four, sometimes players don't get to take advantage of. I told them after our game, Go up and spend some time with your family, try to watch some of the game till halftime. It's another thing where you can say it's a distraction if you don't trust your team or you can say it's not just to get a feel good pat on the pack, they get enough of those. It was really to spend some time with the people that matter, and that's their families. That's the reason I think they went up there.
We do have seats up there somewhere. I don't know exactly where they are. I think this team has gained my trust. I think they know how to stay focused now. It's not easy in this setting, but I think they've done a great job of it.
Q. Almost every Carolina player and Roy have all said they're not really using the first game as any sort of judgment of Michigan State because, as you said, it was a bad night. Outside of motivation, are you using that first game at all for tomorrow night?
COACH IZZO: I'm not. I don't know if these guys are. I'm not, only from the standpoint of I'm not sure we ever watch that film. It's just one of those games.
But I did make the statement after the game that, you know, we had some guys that were laid up. Even Kalin is back. We had some guys that were laid up. If we had everybody perfect, the way they played that night, instead of winning by 35, they could have beat us by 20.
If we play good and they play good, we're losing. That's the way I look at it. I mean, I don't look at that in the negative. They are the best team in the country, and have been that, have earned that rank probably over a year and a half. But we found a way to have some teams not play as good against us.
So all we've got to do, it doesn't have to be this and this, we've just got to play good and have them play a little less than good. That's how we hope to beat 'em.
But I'm sure we talked about it once and everybody wants revenge. That's normal. But I think these guys have enough respect for 'em, but yet don't fear them because of what happened then.
Q. You dunked against Robinson last night. After you put it down, did you feel something come out of UConn, feel them deflate a little bit?
DURRELL SUMMERS: You know, I just kind of tried to probe into it a little bit. I seen Raymar on the wing. I seen him kind of back pedal a little bit. He's an athletic guy, just like I am. I kind of like my chances with a guy back pedalling and me going straight up.
He got a little piece of the ball. I just kind of instinctively tried to overpower it a little bit.
Q. Did you feel something come out of that?
DURRELL SUMMERS: You know, they kind of dropped their heads a little bit. But we tried not to let up. They're a great basketball club, just like we are. They're trying to fight to the end. So, you know, we kind of celebrated a little bit. But coach was yelling, Get back. We had to finish the game.
Q. You've been very clear over the years you want your guys to get out and run when that opportunity presents itself. Is this maybe the rare case where you have to be careful with that?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think that's gonna be in the hands -- we'll have a meeting with my point guards, with Travis and K and Korie Lucious. We still want to run. We have to make the best decisions. I don't want to make them on this end, I want to make them on our end. In other words, let's push it all the way.
When we get down there, there's going to be pressure on these two guys to figure out if we have numbers, are we going to get a good shot or not.
But I don't like when we make that decision on the outlet. I like when we make that decision at the end, on the finish. But that puts more pressure on my guards. But I think they're ready to handle that now. They've grown a lot during this year, too.
Q. You were talking about the moment on the floor before the game with Jim Nantz last night, how you soaked it in. Your buddies were saying last night how they've noticed you have enjoyed this ride maybe more than even the others. Have you done that intentionally because this is your fifth one? Are you enjoying it more? Travis, what have you done to make sure the coach enjoys it a little more than maybe in the past?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, I've enjoyed every one. But I think when a team maybe takes some ownership in the team - That sounds crazy, but that's what's happened. Adversity always makes you go one way or the other - you either grow from it or you fail from it. And this team has grown from it.
You know, maybe it was the loss. Maybe it was some tough home losses. Everybody talks about that "one" game. I mean, I remember when Louisville got beat by Notre Dame bad. Sometimes we don't think we're perfect, I think some other people do, and we're not. But it's not really if you're perfect; it's if you learn from the mistakes you made.
I think I have confidence that this team is starting to take over the team instead of it being a coach-coached team. When that happens, it's a more enjoyable ride. It really is in their hands. I mean, once the game starts, it's in their hands. I can call every play in America, once in a while I get excited when one works because more often than not they don't. They're the ones that finish the plays and make the shots and make the decisions.
Yeah, it has been an enjoyable ride. Where we've played, the teams we've played, it just seems like it's been a great run in that respect.
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, I think as a coach, for coach, when players do what you ask, players execute, players focus in, do the things that you want done, I think you enjoy it more. So I think for the most part, you know, every player on this team has focused in to believe everything coach said, got tougher, you know, played Michigan State basketball, blue-collar, kind of been role models for the kids, been great to the community.
So I think that's what coach asked for out of us. You know, for this year, we did all to deliver it for him. Even through our ups and downs, we've been good in school and everything. We took care of our business. I'm pretty sure for coach that's what you want out of your kids. You want them to do everything you ask, even if you think things not going right, you want them to at least attempt and have a mindset of doing something right and executing and focusing on the game plan, what you got to do. I think we did that this year.
Q. Goran, a couple minutes ago somebody asked for you to raise your hands if you thought, after that North Carolina defeat, you would be here at this time. Only Travis and Raymar raised their hands. What was up with you?
COACH IZZO: He wasn't in the building (laughter). He didn't see the game.
GORAN SUTON: I watched the game at home. I must have missed that part of the question or something. I definitely would have had my hand up (smiling).
It was hard watching these guys play and not being there that time. But we have got a chance. I think it's going to be a totally different game.
Q. Travis and Goran, what have you taken from the '79 team and what in particular during the tournament have they said to you or given you any kind of advice? Goran, when was the first time you became aware of what the '79 team did?
GORAN SUTON: Well, I think, you know, Magic came back a couple times, talked to us. They had the 30-year reunion in the Breslin Center. They came and spoke to us, told us to keep together, keep believing in each other. We have a great coaching staff, so we can get great things accomplished.
For myself, I learned about that game, I'm pretty sure, a couple years coming to America, you know, watching Final Fours, the NCAA tournaments. Earvin went to my high school. I obviously heard about the national championship that he won at Michigan State in '79. So I watched that game probably, you know, somewhere in 2003.
TRAVIS WALTON: When you think about that team, they went 4-4 starting off in the Big-10. They had they ups and they downs. Was probably on the verge of not making it to the tournament. They was facing a lot. I think when you look at that team, you look at us, we faced a lot of adversity with our ups and downs. People probably didn't believe they was going get there. Had high hopes probably before the season, like we did.
When they came back, we celebrated for them, when the '79 team came back, and we played in front of them. I think that game we kind of played for them. There was a lot of emotion in that game. It was pretty much enjoy the moment, cherish it. You could see all the smiles on they faces all them years later. They remembered each other. They were hugging each other, doing all those little things.
I think it was cherish the moment, but at the same time, "Get the same thing we got." That was what a lot of them was saying, "Go get what we got." That's basically what they were saying.
Q. Kalin, after that game in December, I think you specifically said, We'll get them back in the rematch. Were you really that confident there would be another rematch?
KALIN LUCAS: No. As far as our team, we just want to take one game at a time. We had goals and dreams that we did want to accomplish. You know, we just took one game at a time and now we're here and it feels good to be here.
Q. Tom, after the game yesterday, after you addressed the team, the team huddled up and chanted 'family.' Why is there a particular emphasis on family and why is it working?
COACH IZZO: Probably Earvin and Gregory, the Steve Smiths, Snows, Cleaves, Petersons, that's kind of been what they've tried to sell here. Travis and K and Ray and G, all these guys here, Durrell, they have the choice of what they want to say. That's not coach driven. That's player driven.
Throughout the season there's been a couple different times when focus and finish has been one of our battle cries, when some games we didn't feel we finished strong enough at the end, that we didn't finish well enough.
But I think they probably picked that for this because of the 30, 40, 50 thousand people, or whatever people that were here. You kind of feel like everybody in this city is part of our family.
So probably better off asking Travis because he kind of comes up with it each time.
TRAVIS WALTON: Well, we family. We see each other more than we see our own moms and dads and grandparents. So with that something said, you come in college to meet friends that you gonna have for a lifetime, to expand from your high school days. With us coming here, coming to Michigan State, being embraced by the Mateen Cleaves, Magic Johnsons of the world and everything like that, it's family. You can't go other places, I don't think, that you can say you got NBA legends that look at you as they little brother or arguably one of the best leaders in college basketball, Mateen Cleaves, looking at us like we his little brothers. That's family, period.
Q. Coach, the fourth time in the last five years you guys and Carolina have been in the same building in the tournament. Fifth time this decade. Going back to '57, these two programs met in the semifinals. Is it time these two programs finally meet in a national title game?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, they've kind of given us our lunch, haven't they? But that's because they're a great program. I've said a million times, there's some programs we're aspiring to beat. But you hit the nail on the head. They've done it consistently since those '50s probably. We've been a little up and down probably. We're getting more consistent.
So there's a lot of things that are time. The problem is, where I have to respect them probably as much as any team recently is, I had a team that had a bunch of guys that could have left early, at least a couple of guys, and they wanted to win a championship. In this day and age, winning sometimes doesn't come before personal goals or other things.
There's no secrets that Carolina had three or four guys that could have left, two or three for sure. They came back to win a championship. They're knocking on the door, too.
We know what daunting task we have. But I think the story is better that we're both in the same building and we've both moved on and we both played in some big games. If we're getting our name in with theirs right now, I think that's a plus for our program, because they have done it over time.
We're aspiring to do it over time. That's the respect I have for Roy, for his program, and for what the players in the past have done there.
I get a chance to work Michael Jordan's Fantasy Camp every year, and I'm sure him and Magic will be having, not a bet, but I think they'll be having a gentlemen's agreement on this (smiling).
Q. What effect has Delvon's progress, the ride he's been on, knowing there were no guarantees with his health, no guarantees in a lot of ways with a whole lot regarding his situation, had on this team, knowing now he's squaring off once again with a program, an elite level program that he turned down to play with you guys?
COACH IZZO: What I'm most impressed with Delvon is we've had a lot of NBA people that have come in. When you talk to NBA people about an injury that has really been the end of a lot of guy's careers -- microfracture surgery is a serious injury, taken big strides in the last five years. But what he's done, he's almost the poster child or medical miracle for that injury. He's had very, very little problems with it - knock on wood, if there's some around here - and yet the swelling and all the things that normally take place with that, he hasn't had.
I give credit to him, our trainers, our doctors, his doctor back in Cleveland, they did a marvelous job. We stuck to it. When he could only practice every other day, whatever he could do, play 12 minutes a game, there were times I wanted to play him more, but pretty much stuck to the program that I was told.
But I think he gives credit. I think these guys deserve credit, because Delvon is potentially a very good player, but he's not always been great, because the guy missed 10, 11 months. He didn't touch a basketball for probably nine months. That's hard to do.
So when the NBA guys come in and say, Wow, that's pretty impressive that a guy is still playing and doing this, it gives me a better perspective. That was my first with that kind of surgery. He's got a big heart. He works hard. He's got a long ways to go yet. I think his best basketball's ahead of him. Spring, summer, and fall, he'll get to finally work out, which he hasn't really been able to do on the game of basketball, his skills.
Q. Kalin, can you talk about the first game with North Carolina, the way you played and the way Lawson played.
KALIN LUCAS: He played great. One thing he did was he ran his team good. He got his guys shots. He made sure he created for his-self and plus his team. I mean, everybody know they beat us, they beat us bad.
As far as our team, we just gonna go out on Monday. We gonna play 'em aggressive. It should be a great game.
Q. A lot is made of kind of the grit and will of this team. Not a lot of credit is given to the talent of the team. Can you speak to that. Most of these guys are highly recruited players.
COACH IZZO: That's a great point. I mean, I don't disagree with you at all. I accept and I admire some of the talented people in this tournament. You get this far, though, you don't get this far on grit. You get into the tournament, maybe you get through the first round on grit. But there are some talented guys here in their own right. I think they're trying to build their own legends, their own ways. In some ways our team is still young, and some of them are just growing. In some ways our team has accepted their roles, and sometimes that doesn't get enough credit.
We have some talented guys, and I think that's been oversighted a little bit because I get to see them every day and I'm prejudiced.
Q. Coach, how has your preparation on the turnaround, second game of a weekend in the NCAA tournament, how has that evolved during your career at Michigan State and how do you think that helps you tomorrow? And, Travis, why do you think you guys are so successful in that second game of a tournament under Izzo?
COACH IZZO: Well, on our part I think, you know, we devised a plan that we used when we played Princeton because it was such a hard second-day turnaround. We devised a plan where we have these little 20-minute meetings, film session. Even if we get back at 1:30 in the morning from our game, which has happened a few times, we always have a film session so they can go to bed on it, just a short one.
Kind of learned if you keep them short, we have meetings, walk-throughs, in hotels, a lot of things I learned from my football buddies, I listened to Magic talk about when they were in the playoffs how they used hotels, courts laid down in them. We tried to do those things a lot of teams do.
I think the reason we've had such good success is the players' focus. I told them something the first weekend, and I think they believe it. I said, You get me through the first game and I feel good that I can help get you through the second. And they've kind of had that mentality.
And now they've gotten to the point where they watch a lot of film. Some of them tell me what I should be doing the next morning, like this morning. And the funny part is, I'm starting to get enough confidence where I'm listening to every word they say.
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, I think pretty much the coaching staff, of course, do -- not even the coaching staff, because they focus on our games, so our managers that's in the program, they get a lot of film, do a lot of stuff for coaches. Once the game over, we can prepare for the next team, have anything on the table for 'em, the players focusing in, knowing what we got to do out there. You got most of the players trying to watch a little extra film. We do a 20-minute film session, as coach say. Maybe a couple other players, they may do a 10-minute extra film session to get more acquainted with that team.
Like he said, the players -- as players, we all do a great job of focusing in, listening to what the coach is saying. You got to give credit to our managers and the people behind of scene that y'all never see or y'all never talk to.
Q. Last night after the game, Coach Calhoun said he had watched a lot of tape of you guys. I assume any scouting report says you guys play hard, you defend, rebound. He said you were a different-looking team against Louisville, you were different last night. How has this team gotten different?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think last night's game, a big, big difference, K has had some big games, Travis, those guys have been very steady. G, he didn't have a bad game, he just didn't get as many shots. He doesn't get enough credit for his defense. He's a real intelligent player.
Raymar is a difference maker. Raymar Morgan, I think every guy on this podium here would agree, if he wasn't our best player, he was right there with our best player in January. Sometimes you doubt things. It's hard and difficult to see when a guy gets injured, I mean, if it's more than a sprained ankle or something, if it's an injury that lasts a long time, it's harder to come back than you think in a lot of ways, especially when you're under fire.
Raymar played like the guy that played the first 14 games. He was dominating on the boards. He's a very good defensive player. He's got versatility. If you look at all our great players here, I think the one thing over the years has been versatile players. Even for a point guard, I mean, Kalin can shoot it. He can do different things. He's not just one-dimensional.
So I'd say that we're a different team because we are healthy. We have practiced together the last month. But as steady as most of these guys have been, Ray is a difference maker for us.
Q. Roy Williams is fond of saying he's never been beaten by a building. In this building Monday night they're going to be a lot of green, people cheering for you. How much of an advantage does that really give you or does it matter?
TRAVIS WALTON: Well, this the national championship game. Coach Williams say the building not going to beat you, I think you go off the intangibles. It's always a plus to have a lot of fans, but at the same time, you know, we all going for one goal, and that's to win the championship.
So, you know, it's like an away game maybe for them, and they have a great road record. So I'm pretty sure that they not scared of our crowd, or not even worried about our crowd. They just gonna come out and play, you know, thinking that they can quiet our crowd.
Q. Win or lose, this season ends tomorrow night. Have you scheduled that appointment with a barber and are these guys going to hold you to it as far as shaving the head?
COACH IZZO: No, I haven't had time to schedule anything. I'm probably dumb enough to do it. I don't exactly know when. I guess I will say this, that is probably dead last on my things to worry about for tomorrow night. But we'll see.
THE MODERATOR: The student-athletes are dismissed. We'll continue with questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. Last night Jim Calhoun said that you have a cause with all of the economic things going on here, that that's a great thing. Could you talk about when that struck you, how that evolved? Can you ride that emotional wave tomorrow night after what you did last night?
COACH IZZO: You know, Jim has been involved in probably more charities and causes than 90% of the coaches in the country. I think what he means is, I mean, I agree with Roy, no building beats you. But I was a part of a win at the Palace a few years ago that I don't think we win without the building.
You know, I'm not sure we do last night. Yet in ACC country, North Carolina, Duke has experienced that many a times with all the games out there. They're a good road team. We're a good road team. We've been a good road team. We've been almost a better road team than home team. Maybe it's to our disadvantage.
But I think the cause, you know, every year there's things that happen in the NCAA tournament. Every year there's things that happen in the Super Bowl. There's always a story line. This happens to be ours. Every coach is going to use every single motivational tool you can use.
I keep saying one-on-one, we're not as good as North Carolina. I don't feel bad about saying that. I don't feel like I'm demeaning my team. I'm realistic. I'm semi-intelligent. I've watched enough film. G missed that game. I'm happy he missed that game. We sent him home, you know. He had to get his knee operated on the next day. I hope TV was out in Lansing.
But I did see the game. I know how good they are. You're right, we're gonna pull out everything we can pull out. And, yet, this is one cause that isn't manufactured. It's real. People live it every day. But they live it in all our cities right now.
I don't even look at this as just Michigan or Detroit; this is a lot of people. It just seems like because we're in Detroit, you know, there's been an embracing both ways.
Q. You've talked a lot about trust. You've said you've come to trust this team. You said you like a player-coached team better than a coach-coached team. At what point in this season did they start to win you over?
COACH IZZO: Wow, that's a good question. It's always a process. The process wasn't very smooth. I picked some bad words during the year. 'Dysfunctional' was probably one of them that probably a lot of people questioned what I was thinking of my own team. But we were not very smooth. There was not something you could feel good about, because every time we did and we started building, it was Delvon, and then it was G. Then we got all of them back. We practiced the day after Christmas. We had everybody back. We're all excited about that. Delvon got the okay. We go play Oakland. The last two minutes, he sprains his ankle bad. Plays a couple minutes at Minnesota and Northwestern. Then he gets back a week later, then Ray goes down.
I'm not sure I didn't trust them because of any other reason than just the cards we were dealt. I'm not sure they trusted me. I think we live in a society that if you're the coach or you're the teacher, the principal, the parent, we're supposed to respect you because of your age or your title. Age and title gain no respect. They have to see what you do and you have to see what they do.
And usually there's controversial things that happen. Maybe it was the losses to Northwestern, a very good Penn State team -- who just won the NIT. I'm really happy for Eddie. Maybe it was going through those tough times.
I know Ray, we've had so many heart-to-hearts in the last two weeks. But one took place last night in the shower room before my final talk to my team. You're just always trying to get through to him. You're always trying to let them know you understand. And sometimes you're jumping on 'em. That's okay, too. And sometimes they're barking back. For me, that's okay, too.
But trust is earned, not given. And I think sometimes we just expect that a kid should trust you because of the position you hold. And really, to an 18-year-old, 20-year-old, I'm not really sure that matters. You have to earn it each day, just like we tell them they have to earn it each day.
Q. Could we get a little more detail about your turnaround scheme. What film did you watch last night? How long was it? How much more film will you watch?
COACH IZZO: What we started doing is we started having these 15- to 20-minute sessions. We watched a little of their break and offense. That's the key to the game, lethal weapon for them. Their halfcourt offense is good, but they don't get in it very often because they score so fluently in their first 10 or 15 seconds. Definitely one of the best fast-breaking teams consistently from tip to the end that I've ever seen in college basketball.
So we watched a little bit of that. We just talked about a couple of things we thought affected us the first game, 22 turnovers, where they get 27 points off our turnovers. We wore down the second half. We talked as a coaching staff, Why did we let them wear down?
Then this morning, we got up. What we do is 15 or 20 minutes before breakfast, film session, have breakfast, 15 minutes after walk-through in the ballroom. Now we'll practice tonight before supper, so it doesn't become an inconvenience or a drag. 15 minutes, individuals, we'll look at their individual personnel. We'll eat. Then we'll either walk through or look at a little more film, some things we thought we're not doing as good a job of, or they're doing a great job of, try to figure out how we do that.
We'll do the same thing in the morning, have another walk-through. It's only 15 or 20 minutes, but it could be as many as five, six times a day. I think more soaks in. Everybody has their own system. But more soaks in a small period of time than maybe an hour film session than I'm sleeping or they're sleeping.
Q. Doug Herner, Jordan Ott, what do they do? What does Doug specifically do to help you?
COACH IZZO: Those guys are the video guys that pull a lot of film, try to figure out what games. You got to try to find film. Doesn't do me any good to go watch film of somebody zoning North Carolina because we're not going to do much of that, or some team, like a Missouri, who presses the whole game, because we're not going to do much of that. You try to find teams that are somewhat comparable, who's giving them trouble.
God, I felt so good. When I look at the sheet, I said, Aha, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Then I looked through and saw Lawson didn't play. Bag that film, go somewhere else (laughter).
That's what you try to do. They do a great job of preparing. I'm kind of glad Travis said it. We have 10 managers. We filmed over 1800 games so the night of the NCAA tournament we'd have something on everybody. It's been kind of a fun thing at our office. My former assistants that maybe don't have the video equipment, the things we have at Michigan State, they'll send a manager, fly one in if they're in the NIT or NCAA, find out who, leave with eight or 10 tapes. It kind of keeps our staffs together a little bit. It's been kind of fun.
But our managers, guys that make nothing, they're filming games till 2, 3 in the morning. The night of the NCAA tournament, they'd come to me with a list, you got eight films on this, nine films on this, if you get through this round, you got this, and they had it all laid out.
There's so many guys that do so much work, I get credit from it. It's been a fun ride. That's why we have three or four video guys in the NBA now. It's just all part of the program. I guess that's what I'm proudest about. It's not just our players, our fans; it's our program is growing.
And yet we're playing one of the ultimate programs, to be honest with you. It's one that has done it for a long, long time. I remember when Larry Brown was here. He just talked about coach. He still pays homage to the people that coached him. That's pretty cool.
Q. We know Suton didn't play in the first game. What other specific ways do you think you guys are better and different? For a guys who loves motivational things, isn't that something you really can use, losing a game like that?
COACH IZZO: If I thought it was a total fluke, I could use it. I don't think it was. That's the problem. I got to come up with different ones than that. Thinking of getting Magic's two years of eligibility back, something that's a little bit better.
We were a little beat up. That's the truth. We came off that three games in four days. Even Roy said to me after the game, we're hanging in there with five, six minutes to go. We're five down. Lawson hit two deep threes. I think we went down 12 or 13 at halftime. In the second half, the wheels came off the cart. We looked poor, we ran poor, we shot poor. He said, Your legs came out on you, watch how you schedule, meaning the timing of things. I laughed and said that that was good advice.
I think he saw it. He knows we're a better team than that. I think the part that's a problem, and listening to some of the people last night, they shot 40% last night. I mean, they didn't play that well for North Carolina standards, and beat a very, very good team - not handily, but fairly handily. I think that tells you a little bit on how good North Carolina is.
I'm hoping the one thing that has helped us in this tournament has been our depth. They haven't been playing as many players, although they've got some guys sitting there that haven't played as much that are pretty good, because I saw them early in the year.
But maybe that's one thing we can use. If you got any motivational ideas, it's 1-800-Izzo, just call me.
Q. After that game, you said that was a team you'd like to play again with a full deck. What were you thinking when you said that?
COACH IZZO: Saying that to Charlie Bell, as we were marching through the tournament, we were going to have to play Iowa State. Everybody thought they were a 1 seed until the last week, so they made a big deal about it, Boy, you guys have to play another No. 1 seed, potential No. 1 seed. Charlie said, To be the best, you got to beat the best. A clich√É¬© a lot of people have used. I was thinking of Charlie then. I was thinking if I'm still playing and I get another shot at North Carolina, I knew it would be somewhat late, somewhat late. I didn't know it would be in the national championship game, but it would be somewhat late.
I was a little bit hoping to play Carolina again, just maybe that much. But I was hoping to be still around when I'd have a chance to, because I thought it would be later in the tournament.
Q. How important is it to have a kid like Korie Lucious who never seems to lose confidence in his shot? As a coach, why have you found it so important to embrace the '79 team and make them a part of your program?
COACH IZZO: Well, first one on Korie Lucious, that's one thing great about freshmen, especially ones that are a little cocky, they don't even realize the falderal around them. You can look at it two ways. Be enamored by it or be oblivious to it. I think sometimes freshmen can go either way. I think he's oblivious, smiling and laughing. A couple times I want to strangle him, Quit smiling, it looked like you were showing off.
That's not who he is. He feels good about himself. He's played up and down. He is good enough to play. He had problems with turning the ball over early. He's done a great job of that lately. He's definitely getting better, as is Draymond Green and Delvon Roe.
Our freshmen are a lot better than the last time we played them. Whether that's enough, I know Davis is a lot better than the last time we played them, too.
As far as the '79 team, a couple things happened. When I came down as a graduate assistant, it was a couple years after Magic came out of school. He lived still in Lansing in the off-season. One of my jobs was to open up the gym for him to come workout in August. So I just kind of sat around there wide-eyed UP'er, thinking, This is pretty cool. Then Gregory Kelser has been very close to the program and comes up all the time. Hopefully because of us, but partially because of his family, Earvin is back a lot.
I think it was a 10- or 20-year reunion at my house, part of it was at my house. I got to know Donnellys, Brkoviches, Bobo Charles, spent some time with Bobo, recruited in Atlanta. And the main reason is Jud, you know, my mentor. That's another Carolina thing. They've kept people in the family there.
My mentor, the reason I'm here, the reason I got the job, coached those guys. I used to hear all the good stories. As I say, it was my first year out of college. I got to go to their Final Four. It was my first Final Four ever in Salt Lake City. So I guess there's a lot of intangible reasons why I embrace them.
I think the best one is I think you could argue who's the greatest player. Our two schools definitely have two of the top five, maybe that ever played, or top 10. But I could argue that I think we might have the best leader that ever played the game in Magic Johnson. I learn from him every day still. I listen every time he talks to our team. I jot things down and write them. He's not afraid to call and tell me some things.
If you would see him when he comes back to visit our team our talk to them the night before the game, or like yesterday after the game, the passion that guy has. Travis is right, it's unbelievable. He loves the game. He loves Michigan State. He knows everything. He knows who I'm recruiting. He knows what we do. He's an incredible guy, one I'm glad's on our side. I only wish he was playing.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about this as a team with a cause. Does the group from Flint compare in any way a few years ago to what's going on right now? Are there any psychological dangers of carrying an issue on your shoulders in a circumstance like this?
COACH IZZO: We're not carrying them on our shoulders like we're trying to save the world. We're carrying them on our shoulders because we care and it's our state. The "Flintstones," they were their own breed. One of them is flying back tonight from California. They were a special group because they were kind of the first group of this era, of my era. We had a lot of them. There were four or five of them. They embraced everything that I believed in.
These guys are getting that way, Kalin. I think this has been good for Kalin and Durrell. I think anytime you can take the focus off yourself and you can really embrace other people, I think it's good for all of us.
I don't know if you want to call this a cause. In fact, I would like to address that. I mean, the state, this city is very important to me. But the cause right now is for the Michigan State players to win a championship, and hopefully the repercussions from that will help a lot of people. It's a feel good for a lot of people.
So I can't say we're out there playing -- we're playing for us, we're playing for our university, we're playing for our city and state. But these players deserve to have the focus on them, too. They've earned it. I mean, they have not shied away from anything. Some of these guys have been here four and five years, have played in every arena in the country, against the top teams in the country. We've dodged nobody. And that is the great thing about going through something. I can look 'em in the eye and say that and believe what I'm saying because that's the way I schedule.
Sometimes I apologize. The North Carolina game. We played Thursday, Friday, Saturday off, we played Sunday. We come back late at night and we played a couple days later. That was stupidity on my part. That was bad scheduling.
A couple things happened. They moved a game. You know, I thought that other one was Thursday, Friday, Saturday when we scheduled it. That was bad scheduling. I put those players in a bad position.
This one, the one-day prep, is the same for both teams. So we're in a better position.
Q. Over the years, your name has come up with some high-profile college jobs - recently even, like that school should pursue you. Your name has been connected to NBA jobs. Ultimately what keeps you at Michigan State? How much of it is a financial deal at Michigan State and how much your personal happiness?
COACH IZZO: There are a lot of coaches' names that are brought up on a lot of jobs. Everybody thinks when your name is brought up, that means you're the leading candidate for that job. That's not always true.
I think in the NBA, in all honesty, I've had a couple of opportunities that I think I definitely might have had. Then you become where you got to have a college guy, you got to have an assistant coach, a veteran coach. Whatever that team's list is. I'm one of a couple guys that have been on the college guy list.
I wouldn't believe that I'm as wanted on some of those things as sometimes it seems. I just think that I'm the guy's name out there, maybe it was my buddy, Mariucci, was in the NFL, that kind of funny story.
But what keeps me at Michigan State? They gave me my chance. I do like it there. I feel like I have so much more to build. I love the Dukes, Carolinas, Kentuckys, Kansas. I'm not going to see that in my lifetime because they've done it for so many years, but I love aspiring to be those.
I don't think we're there yet. You know, the five Final Fours people can argue, but that's five Final Fours in 11 years. Some of these guys have been doing things for 50 years.
We're not there yet. So the dream of winning a third national championship for our school and being in that small, small group. I told a lot of people, John Wooden said to me once when we won our first one, Welcome to the fraternity of 40, at the time. I didn't even know what the hell he meant. He meant there were 40 guys that have won a national championship, thanks to Bill Walton deciphering what he said.
Although, Bill, I had trouble figuring that out, too, after he told me.
But, you know, when I thought back on that, I said, Wow, you know. But then when you get into winning a second one, that group really shrinks. Even a third as a university. To be in the same with a Magic Johnson, being in the same part of those things, that's thrilling to me, that's exciting to me, especially when we're probably building a little bit more, and some of those other program versus to maintain it, which sometimes is harder, so I take my hat off to them.
But that's why I stay.
Q. At times you've been either in tears or near tears. Can you count want number of times? Obviously this is emotional for you. How many times have you lost it privately?
COACH IZZO: You know, not as many as you'd think. I just appreciate the opportunity I have. I mean, everybody has a dream in the world. From what I came from, I'll never forget my first game at Michigan State. We were standing in the tunnel, first Big-10 game, ourselves and Iowa were the favorites to win it. Scott Skiles, Sam Vincent, we had some very, very good players on that team, I looked out at that arena, there were 10,000, you know, my town is 8,000, I said, Wow, this is unbelievable.
So it's been an unbelievable ride for me. I guess I get criticized sometimes for wearing my emotions on my sleeve when I'm angry, but I wear the same emotions when I'm emotional. I appreciate the hard work guys do for me. I appreciate where people have helped take me. And I understand that I get credit for things that they do.
And so I think about those guys. When you had a guy like Mateen Cleaves, Morris, those guys, realize they took a chance on our program when everything was the Fab Five in Michigan, and deservingly so. They took a chance. They could have gone anywhere. I think of those guys often. I call them often. They call me.
Maybe that's why in those great moments when you're standing there, very seldom am I thinking of what happened in the present. I'm thinking of the things that happened in the buildup to where we are.
Q. All the film studying you're going to be doing in the next 24 hours, will you make it a point to look at the game in December or will you make it a point not to look at the game? Normally when you have a bad night, do you try to learn from those things or try to forget the film?
COACH IZZO: I have destroyed a film or two in my day, but not many. I didn't destroy this one. I told my guys last night, my video guys, I don't really want to watch the film. Why get more depressed. I just saw them against Villanova. I don't need to be more depressed or sleepless.
But I told them to pull, like, the ball screens or pull some key things on how we covered them, what I think we have to do actively, what hurt us. So I've just got some things we pulled out. But I'm looking more at the last five or six games. And maybe the teams in their league, because teams in their league usually know how to play you the best, because you're so familiar with each other.
There's some guys in that league that are great coaches, too. So the guys that I respect, that I think play somewhat like us, you know, Virginia Tech would be a good example. You always have to look at Duke because Mike is such a good coach. That's what I try to do, is look at who did it and could we adapt to that if they had success. If they didn't have success, make sure we don't do the same thing.
Q. With Goran absent during the first game against North Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough went off for a big game. What kind of defensive impact do you think he can make the second time around?
COACH IZZO: I've seen Tyler Hansbrough go off on a lot of great defenders whether Goran is there or not.
I will say this. In the last four or five games, we've faced some pretty good centers, pretty good post people. G has done an incredible job of figuring out how to guard 'em. He's the one guy I don't tell him how to guard 'em much. I tell him what their favorite moves are. If he has the strength, he does have an incredible understanding of the game.
Unlike a Travis or even Raymar, he's not a film watcher, per se. I think it's the European part of him that, you know, skill-wise and understanding of the game, he really does a good job. So if I tell him to high-ball side him or this or that, I really don't get in depth very often, I just let him play like I think he thinks he can play, within our framework.
Q. Over time, programs develop an institutional memory. In a sense each team, it becomes a reflection of the coach during that time he runs the program. What do you see of yourself in this team, in the program as you've run it? Could you do the same for Roy Williams?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think for myself, kind of a fighter, a dreamer, not afraid to dream, not afraid of challenges, not afraid to fail. That's why we schedule like we do.
Some of it's selfish. I want to schedule like I do, because of all places, I want to go to North Carolina. I'll never forget I promised Mateen Cleaves if he came here, I'd schedule the world, because he wanted to be on TV. His senior year, we scheduled North Carolina. We got a schedule with them. He breaks his foot and misses two months. We were going into that arena down there. If you look up at all the banners, the retired jerseys, Morris Peterson came up to me, Cleaves was on crutches, he said, You better go over and talk to Mateen. I went over there. Tears were streaming down his face. He had dreamed of playing in that place. That's of great respect to them. But it also tells you a little bit that that's the kind of guys I want to have, too, that want to play against the best, want to go to those places.
I selfishly want to go there just to see him, Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky. Why wouldn't you? UCLA, Texas, Syracuse, Connecticut. We've been to some of the greatest arenas and the greatest places in basketball. I've enjoyed it. I think they've enjoyed it. I think at this time of year at least, you can look a guy in the eye and say, You faced this before, here's what you did right, here's what you did wrong. Here are some things that would give you a chance.
And Carolina, so many different weapons. It's more difficult to do that.
I've known Roy for quite a while now, since he was an assistant for Dean at Carolina. When he got the Kansas job, I kind of watched his career, saw him. I was dreaming of, Could I ever get a big job? He was going to Kansas. I was thinking of going to Northern Michigan. It was a little different because he had that pedigree behind him and everything.
But I've watched his teams. They've always run. They've always been so aggressive offensively. He's always had very good skill people, which means they must do an incredible job with their player development, all that, individual development. I think everybody's personality's a little different, but his team takes on his in that they're very sharp.
I copy from him on how I want my team to tuck in their shirts and look, all those things. I think he stands for what's right about college basketball, and that's what we're aspiring to do.
Q. A lot of people widely view Tyler Hansbrough as the consummate college basketball player. How do you view him?
COACH IZZO: I love to hate him, is what I do. I hate him because he knocks you on your tail. He's tough as nails. He loves contact.
There's two kinds of players I always talk about: seekers and avoiders. He is a seeker. I mean, if you're there, he's gonna go hit you. That's what I love about him. But when I have to play against him, that's what I hate about him, because he is the ultimate competitor. He's going to find a way to beat you, whether it's with a rebound. Said he couldn't shoot the ball. Now he's shooting 17-footers. They said he couldn't go over his right shoulder. Now he's going over his right shoulder.
I'm going to tell him you can do everything well. He's like Scott Skiles, I don't want to tick him off. I think when you do, he raises his game a level. He's such a good free-throw shooter, when he gets to the line, which he does an enormous amount, it makes it harder to defend.
For a college coach, if we didn't have to play them, I'd love him a lot more. To see him come back, go after something that was very important to him, it reminds me of what Mateen did for me. You have to have great respect for people that will put team and university and coaches and all that ahead of your own individual things. I think he's proven his mettle by doing that.
Q. I remember Goran being recruited was pretty close to going to Arizona State. Do you remember that scenario? Did you feel that was a possibility?
COACH IZZO: Yeah. It was an interesting time. I lately have gotten a lot of accolades for what we've accomplished. But he was down to Arizona State and us. We were down to Al Horford and him. Case closed. Al Horford is a hell of a player, not that we maybe for sure could have had him.
But it was interesting. And yet we liked Goran, we really did. Arizona State had done a good job of recruiting him. He wasn't as highly recruited. Neither was Al. Billy did a great job of recruiting Al. Neither one of them was on everybody's who's who list.
G needed to learn to love the game. I think his best basketball is still ahead of him, I really do.
Q. Could you clear up the situation with Goran and that first game. Was he here on game day and sent home?
COACH IZZO: Yeah.
Q. How did he get home then?
COACH IZZO: I think we gave him a cab ride.
No, what happened was he had had an injury and he missed the whole pre-season. It was his knee. He came back, played in a couple games. Medically, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with him from what you do, wiggle his knee, do this and that. Everything seemed to be okay medically. So then you start questioning his heart, and is he playing hard enough. It was the day before, it looked like he could play. Couldn't play down in Florida. Looked like he could play. Then we were going through the layup line that day in our prepractice. I mean, he just couldn't go at all. It was frustrating for me, frustrating for him.
I told our trainers, This is it, we're sending him home, he's getting an MRI, doing this, doing that. This is depressing for everybody. We did. We found out later that day, and the next day he got operated on.
It was minor surgery, but it kept him out another three, four weeks. So that's how the story went.
Q. Did a trainer take him home?
COACH IZZO: I think I was so mad at him then, I think he walked. It's only 80 miles (smiling).
No, I think we had one of our managers take him home, to be honest with you. I don't really remember. That whole day was kind of a blur. You know what I mean? It went from bad to a lot worse real quick.
I've tried to forget that whole week, that week. In fact, if you ask me, 2008 never happened. I'm trying to move ahead to 2009.
Thanks a lot. Look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
End of FastScripts