Izzo discusses racism, COVID-19 and his “dream player” with Katz

Tom+Izzo%2FPhoto%3A+MSU+Athletic+Communications

Tom Izzo/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Ian Drummond, Volleyball Beat Reporter

Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo appeared on NCAA basketball correspondent Andy Katz’s March Madness 365 podcast on Tuesday. During the interview, Izzo revealed his thoughts about the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the sport, and the two built Izzo’s “dream player” together.

Katz started by asking Izzo, who has released a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter, how he felt watching the events of the last month.

“As I look at [Colin] Kaepernick take a knee, I remember back to my days in junior high school, high school, even college… here’s all these American white people burning flags,” Izzo said. “So now you’re talking about kneeling on a flag, and I’m upset about that, because you’re disrespecting the flag or the military, and then I’m looking at my era and we’re burning flags. It made me sit back and press that pause button and say ‘wait a minute, [there’s] a lot of things I don’t truly understand.’”

He also said that his former players have been helping him have conversations about racial issues in sports and the country at large.

“I talked to Denzel [Valentine] and Miles [Bridges] and Gary Harris, just the guys I have in the league… I talked to them and I realized just how hard and uncomfortable it is to talk about uncomfortable things,” Izzo said. “I’ve got to do a better job, and we’ll have to do a better job.”

Izzo also said that his team has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic well. 

“One place it’s been a perfect storm is we’ve gotten some time to talk. Social distance, wearing masks and just talking about these things,” Izzo told Katz.

Katz finished the interview by asking Izzo for his best player in ten categories to build his “dream player.” While some came to him immediately, like Bridges as his “bucket-getter,” others, like “top defender,” made Izzo think.

“Believe it or not, it is gonna be hard for me to choose,” he said. “I’ve got Mateen (Cleaves), I’ve got Travis Walton, Jaren Jackson blocking shots… I’d say my top defender is between Charlie Bell and Gary Harris, I’ll have to go with Charlie since he was here all four years.”

Izzo’s ten players that made up his “dream player” were Cleaves, Valentine, Bell, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson, Bridges, Cassius Winston, Zach Randolph, Antonio Smith and Draymond Green.

Ian Drummond is a reporter for Impact 89FM WDBM who primarily covers volleyball. Follow him on Twitter at @idrumma.