Izzo finds the positives even in a trying season

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Michigan State’s troubles have been well-documented thus far. There isn’t really anything new to say, unless it’s coming from Tom Izzo or one of the Spartans.

This is where John Feinstein comes in.

The longtime college basketball writer talked to Izzo last week and showed why “A Season the Brink” and his many other hoops books make for such compelling reading. Guy gets his sources to talk. And he did just that with Izzo.

This story from the Washington Post contains lengthy Izzo quotes where the Michigan State coach is equal parts humble, flummoxed and refreshing. I’ve excerpted two segments.

“I know it sounds ridiculous or masochistic or both,” he said one morning last week after a stunning 82-62 loss at the hands of Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa. “I honestly think that maybe I needed to go through this. I’m not saying I like losing on any level. But it probably isn’t a bad thing when you start to hear that you’re God or you walk on water to be reminded that you’re not and you don’t.

“I’m completely convinced one way or the other, I’m going to come out of this a better coach and a better person and, I hope, a better father. I’m learning how to deal with not having things go my way all over again. I’m not so sure I’m great at it, but I’m trying to get better at it.” He laughed. “Why would anyone want to be great at it?”

And

“During the season I like talking to football coaches,” he said. “If you talk to basketball coaches they pretty much have the same issues that you do, so it’s almost like talking to yourself. Football coaches see things a little differently than we do.

“I talked to Coach Paterno last fall when they were struggling a little bit. I asked him how he dealt with it, if he tried to make changes tactically. He said, ‘Nah, coaching isn’t about x’s and o’s; it’s about dealing with distractions and issues that come up with your kids.’ I think about that a lot because he’s right.”

He paused. “On the other hand, it would be nice if we could defend every once in a while.”

The first sums up why Izzo’s so damn popular in Michigan. The guy at provides the perception that he hasn’t gotten a huge head with all his success. (Seasons like this help.)

And the second is interesting for how he approaches problems, only to have his realism win out.

Yep. Defense would be nice.

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