Michigan State

Tom Izzo Aims To Take Michigan State to Duke’s Level

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Tom Izzo wanted his players to get a feel for Krzyzewskiville, so he took his players through it. He wanted them to get a feel for Cameron Indoor, so he made sure to get them there early before last week’s meeting with Duke. Then, when it came time for the game, Duke gave the Spartans a lesson on who Kyrie Irving is. Irving scored 31 points as the top-ranked Blue Devils beat Michigan State 84-79 on Wednesday. As you’ll see in the following interview, while the Spartans lost, they learned some lessons, including where Izzo wants to take his program as he admits wanting to take it to the level that Duke is at. Tom Izzo joined 790 the Zone in Atlanta with Mayhem in the AM to discuss the loss to Duke, his relationship with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, taking his players through Krzyzewskiville, who he shares championship rings with, Michigan State football not making a BCS game and his relationship with Nick Saban.

On what he takes away from a close loss to Duke in which Irving scored 31:

“You think he’s a hell of a player, that’s for sure. Irving is a great player and we made him even greater than he is. I say that only because he got 13 [points] at the free throw line. You can’t let that happen, that’s for sure. On that night, he played very well against a very good player and I think it was maybe more him than us. I was actually quite pleased with our defense other than our turnovers which led to poor defense.”

On his relationship with Mike Krzyzewski:

“I think its our Polish-Italian backgrounds, you know? No, but he’s a Midwest guy, too, and Mike’s a guy that I got to know very early in my career and I’ve always had great respect for what they’ve done. They’ve been a program that’s done it athletically and academically and socially and done it with class and without cheating, all the things that you really respect about somebody. I think the greatest respect I have for him, the greatest compliment that I can give to him, is they just never get upset. I like having him as a friend because it keeps me motivated to accomplish some of the things that I don’t think we have accomplished yet.”

On taking his players through Krzyzewskiville:

“My AD helped with that a little bit. He just talked to me about, we went there the night before and there’s a mystique. There’s a mystique to Cameron and there’s a mystique to the Cameron Crazies. So we went there the night before so they could get the mystique of the arena out of their minds. And on the day of the game, when we had our shootaround, I wanted two things: I wanted to get the mystique of the Cameron Crazies out of our mind a little bit, but also, I have respect for that, too. We have a student group here and we camp out with them and I wanted our guys to see what some of the other great programs do.”

On who he shares his Big Ten championship rings with:

“Well, my guy that takes care of the floor and our janitor are a couple of the guys that do, along with our managers. I just feel that it’s normally the lowest people on the totem pole that have sometimes the most significant impact on your program. We have some great people here that maybe let guys in late at night to get into the arena while they’re cleaning the building, this and that, things that are a little bit beyond the call of duty. So I make sure that if we win championships, they’re part of the ring ceremony.”

On Michigan State football not getting a BCS bowl bid:

“I don’t know if raw end of the deal. It’s a bizarre situation. We beat Wisconsin and yet I think Wisconsin is ranked where they should be. I think if you look at Ohio State, they’ve just been doing it for a longer time and they have a very good program. I wouldn’t say a raw end of the deal, I’d say there were three very good teams in the Big Ten and somebody had to not make the BCS game. And you say, ‘Well, why Michigan State?’ Well, Wisconsin, even though we beat them, took care of the business they had to take care of and Ohio State has been a good program.”

On his relationship with former Michigan State coach Nick Saban:

“Nick was here as an assistant when I was an assistant here and then we became head coach at the same time. I love Nick. He’s a guy that him and I have been good friends for those years and we kind of built this thing together, did a lot of recruiting together, speaking together. Unfortunately he left. I think if Nick would’ve stayed here, I swear we would’ve [fill in the blank since Izzo didn’t]. Nick Saban is one of my good friends and a guy I have incredible respect for. I’m prejudice but I think he’s the best football coach in the country.”

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