Stop Excusing Tom Izzo’s Assholery

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The only thing more predictable than Tom Izzo going apeshit on one of his own players, to the point where MSU freshman forward Aaron Henry’s teammates had to actively restrain the head coach, was the parade of dipshits and assholes rushing to Izzo’s defense and framing any criticism of his sideline behavior as evidence of The Great Softening Of The American Man. Here’s former Maryland coach Gary Williams, no stranger to being a raving lunatic on the court himself:


He probably slipped in his own sweat puddle when he typed that. Here’s Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, assuring you that this is all quite normal. Boring, even.

Henry didn’t play particularly well Thursday, either before or after the “coaching.” Yet he didn’t sound troubled by anything after. Rather than flair up at his coach, he looked inward. This is, indeed, one-and-done time. This is MSU in the NCAA tournament. Players go there to make Final Fours and that doesn’t happen with just pats on the back.


And here was Izzo after the game, proudly boasting, “I’m a tell-it-like-it-is guy,” which is a classic indicator that the venerated hardass you’re dealing with is an unapologetic dickhead.

These excuses pop up every time a coach gets out of line and is rightfully called out for it. It’s nothing but bullies rallying to the defense of other bullies. Same shit happened when Adrian Peterson got arrested for abusing his own kids. Go watch that footage of Izzo laying into Henry again. He’s pure rage. He has no control over himself, and there sure as fuck are other ways of communicating your displeasure with someone, no matter whom, other than looking like you’re about to eat them whole.

But to bullying enthusiasts, and to the sporting culture that coddles them so, this is The Way It Is. This works. Yelling is not just needed but it’s also the BEST way to reach these young scamps. Questioning Izzo’s methods means that you are a hypocrite and that you don’t support the correct way to shape boys into men. Cris Carter framed the whole affair as exemplary mentorship, which Henry himself appeared to endorse:


“This coaching will always be effective.” That’s what dudes say when this kind of bullshit worked on THEM back in the day, or at least when they presume it did. This style of coaching should have died when Bob Knight’s credibility did. Henry also defended Izzo in the postgame, treating the coach’s behavior as necessary toughening-up measures:

“I wouldn’t say he’s more demanding,” Henry said of Izzo. “He knows that I think I can rise to the challenge, because I’ve been doing that all year I feel like. It’s just if my plate gets bigger, I got more food to eat. I just gotta eat it.”


I can’t know if Henry means that, and neither can you. Regardless, it’s depressing to see Wetzel, among others, assume that he got a clear-eyed look at the psyche of Henry from those postgame comments, from his body language on the court, and perhaps from a single emoji posted online. He doesn’t take power into account whatsoever here. Henry has no earning power at MSU. If he wants to transfer and play for a different coach, he has to sit out a year. If he wants to publicly lash out at Izzo, he risks more abuse, team discord, plus reduced playing time and frowny faces from the media and future employers. “One-and-done time,” indeed. “I just gotta eat it” sums up how the NCAA treats players deftly.

If you’ve ever been yelled at like this, or had your feelings hurt in some other way, you know that it can be a slow burn. The pain can last for years. Not everyone can just shrug it off, the way wingnuts demand. Being hurt by hurtful things is not a moral or physical failing. You also know that you may not be quick to disclose being hurt to others, especially when you know it could result in embarrassment, or even more hurt. You might internalize that pain and perhaps blame yourself for the whole thing, even though you don’t deserve it. Like other successful coaches, Izzo can pretty much do whatever the fuck he wants, including roiding out at men a third of his age. And the system he operates in, even at a bastion of horrific scandal like Michigan State, treats his methodology as NORMAL. Acceptable. This is a rite of passage boys must go through to become men, and you shouldn’t question it. The players DEFINITELY shouldn’t.


Bullshit. All of it. Take it from someone who has yelled at his own kids: it doesn’t work, and it shouldn’t be normal. It’s a shameful act. I can do better and I ought to. If you think this kind of blind fury aimed at young people IS normal, even a necessity, well then that explains why this country is so fucked at the present. That we have a whole industrial complex ready to grovel at the feet of rich bullies explains a lot. Stand by Izzo and you’re just trying to justify your OWN assholish tendencies, and to preserve a status quo that has served others poorly. If Izzo was a math teacher who did that to a kid, would that be fine? Would his berserker routine shape that kid into the second coming of Einstein? Oooh, maybe that kid could run as Amy Klobuchar’s veep one day! She expects a LOT out of people, you know.

Stop excusing this shit. Stop going MEW MEW MEW YOU’RE A COP if someone points out that this is NOT the way to comport yourself as a leader. If you think this kind of abuse worked for you, or on you, maybe you’re lying to yourself. Or maybe you’re just too lazy to think of other ways of going about instruction. You’re fucked, and WE’RE fucked because you think being fucked is the answer to everything.