The roar of Saturday’s Marcus Smart, fan-shoving controversy from Oklahoma State’s loss at Texas Tech is finally starting to die down a bit, but on Monday, college basketball head coaches gave their take on fan-player interactions and Smart as a player.
One of the more interesting takes came from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. Izzo was a guest on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Monday and had some really unique takes on the fan and player dynamic and the Marcus Smart scenario. The full excerpt comes from 247Sports/Coaching Search
“It doesn’t matter what you tweet. It’s what you read,” Izzo said on Mike & Mike on Monday. “That’s what I keep telling my guys. We can control what they tweet, to a certain extent. They’re going to get frustrated sometimes and probably say something stupid. But it’s what they read. If somebody’s writing stuff about your daughter when she’s in high school, I’ll bet you look at it a little differently. I’ve had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what’s being written. That’s what brings the frustration level.
“Marcus Smart is one heck of a guy. I love the kid. I spent three hours with him, and he’s every bit what they say. But you know what? We all get frustrated, and I think he’s getting grilled on that. We have no way of getting away from it. When you’re in the gym, two hours, they’re yelling at you, you get away, go back to your dorm and life becomes normal. Not anymore. Those same people at that arena are now yelling at you on Twitter. You can say, ‘Don’t read it,’ but I don’t think it’s the way our kids are brought up.”
Izzo makes some great points in regards to Twitter and the attacks that players may face after a game. Online attacks can come at any time from any place and it sure seems as though some in the college basketball world are feeling that heat a little bit too much.
Smart’s former coach with Team USA, Florida head coach Billy Donovan, also weighted in on the matter and Donovan drew an interesting parallel between Smart’s return to college basketball this season and Joakim Noah’s return to college basketball after his first national title at Florida. Like Smart, Noah was seen as a sure-fire lottery pick that came back to face intense scrutiny during his final season in Gainesville.
“I never saw anything like that, ever, coaching him,” Donovan said of Smart. “But I will say this, and I saw this happen with Joakim Noah (center on the Gators’ 2006 and 2007 national title teams). You go from a guy that makes the decision to come back and he gets an enormous amount of publicity, he gets an enormous amount of exposure. . . . I don’t know why (Smart) came back or why he didn’t go or what the decision making process but I had him during the draft was going on and I think for Marcus — and this is my opinion I don’t know this to be true this is just my feeling — is because he was a top five pick a year ago, you feel like you have to play like a top five pick, whatever that looks like in his mind, what happens is you can never reach that level. Whether he thinks he has to score 30 points or have 10 assists, five steals, it’s not gonna happen but you feel this unbelievable pressure and I saw it with Noah.”
“When Noah came back after his sophomore year, the pressure he felt to perform every game was totally out of control,” Donovan said. “Him, he made it out of control. And I told Joakim this: ‘You cannot allow people to rob you of your happiness playing the game’ and I think in some ways Marcus has allowed some happiness to be robbed from him a little bit in this whole process of coming back, not going, maybe not playing like they want to. Obviously they’ve had some tough losses, they play a tough schedule. He’s the guy and now all of a sudden he goes from four months ago being this unbelievable kid coming back for college basketball to now he’s in a situation where he’s looked upon in a very negative light.
“And I saw it with Joakim. Joakim hit the NCAA tournament as a sophomore like a lightning rod, we were unranked everybody loved the kid, and then once the next year started, he was like completely a complete dope, chest pumping and all that stuff, but he did that since he was a freshman. What happens is that gets very confusing for young guys, and Marcus is a young kid and he’s a competitor, and he wants to win and I think he’s one of those guys that just kind of keep on grinding and there’s no question his emotions got the better of him.”
The comparisons to Joakim Noah and losing the joy of playing college basketball appears to be a very realistic feeling for Marcus Smart right now, as Smart has struggled in Big 12 play and the Cowboys are free-falling in the conference standings.