In the opening day of March Madness Michigan State’s Head Coach Tom Izzo screamed at Aaron Henry during the team’s opening game against 15 ranked Bradley University. The berating got so bad Izzo had to be pushed back from Henry. Did Izzo go too far with Henry or was it just behavior to be expected from a coach during college basketball’s most stressful time?
Following the team’s 76-65 victory, Izzo defended his actions saying that Henry wasn’t doing his job and therefore deserved the verbal bashing. Izzo used the analogy that if the head of a newspaper wasn’t doing their job they would be held accountable which really doesn’t fit this situation because the head of a newspaper gets PAID to do their job while college basketball players do not receive a salary for their work on the court. Now that being said, I’m all for coaches calling out players when they’re not playing to their utmost capabilities, BUT it crosses the line when said coach has to be physically pushed back from the player.
There’s better ways to light a fire under a player not performing well but having to be physically pushed back from a player isn’t the way. I don’t care who the coach is the minute you get into a player’s face screaming at him you’re done. You’ve completely lost my respect because that’s just being a bully because of your position.
And I know that there will be a camp of people that point out that after the game Henry said that Izzo’s behavior Thursday was nothing new and that the verbal attack served it’s purpose since the team went on to win. But I would argue back that Henry’s response makes this even worse because it shows that this is typical behavior so players have to get used to it and really what person should ever have to get used to be screamed at by their boss? And to the point that it helped the team win, I don’t think there’s a direct correlation between Izzo being an abusive bully and the team finally finding their rhythm. Now had Henry had a breakout half after that moment then I’d say sure the argument holds some water, but Henry only had 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 8 points during his 29 minutes of play.
I know that the March Madness Tournament is a stressful time for every team involved and if this was a one-time occurrence I would give Izzo a pass. Stress makes us do some crazy things sometimes, but Henry himself says that this behavior is typical from their head coach. Izzo absolutely went too far and it’s sad to see this moment completely overshadowing the team’s victory because this game was one of the best games of the opening day.
Here’s hoping that we don’t have a repeat of this moment during tomorrow’s action against Minnesota, but I’m not holding my breath.