Picked ahead of Michigan and Ohio State, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is excited for what the new college basketball season brings to his Spartans program. Thursday, Izzo spoke with the media about his team and here is the transcript from the event.
COACH IZZO: It's great to be back and see you all. And I'm excited for the season. I can honestly say that it's interesting, when you come in and you're picked high -- and we've been picked high before -- and I think we deserve to be up there. I'm not sure we deserve to be where we are, and I'm not sure anybody does at this state and time, because of the parity that still is in college basketball.
And I do think we've got a good team. I think we've got a veteran team. I think we've added some pieces. We've got some guys back healthy. You put all those things together, I think it gives you a shot, if guys handle the things that go with being ranked high and continue to get better each and every game. So that's what I'm looking forward to.
If we do that, I think it will be a good year.
Q. The additional couple of weeks that you guys get during September, being able to start practice a few weeks earlier, John Groce talked about it a little as well. Does that help you get to a rotation a little bit quicker? Does that help you figure out things a little bit faster.
How does that play into being more prepared, if at all, for the nonconference?
COACH IZZO: I don't know if it gets you more prepared at all, because one way or another we were going to get that many practices in, whether it was two-a-days or whatever you had to do to get it done. But with every rule there's pluses and minuses. I was in favor of going from two hours to 10 to 15, to 20, a little more gradual into it. To be honest with you, starting at 27 was a little shocking. I talked to Billy Donovan early and they weren't going to start until November 10th – or October 10th. People did it different ways.
We did start then, but we took more time off, two practices, then two days off. One practice, two days off. And that was good. And physically I think we can control that. What I'm a little concerned about down the road and in the future mentally, we're starting practice before the NBA even does, and it does
make it a longer season. But with every rule change, the plus is I think our kids didn't get beat up as much because of the number of days that -- I think last year we had like 14 days before -- 15 days before our first exhibition game. It's been better in that respect, and yet when the season's over I'm going to
evaluate what I thought it did mentally, physically and then try to adjust next year. But all in all I think it will benefit us. I don't think it will make us more prepared, because we were going to get that done anyway.
Q. What is different about the challenge in front of Gary this year because people know him, because he's getting the preseason attention, maybe as opposed to a year ago and just a touted freshman?
COACH IZZO: Knock on wood, there's a couple of unique things about Gary Harris which could make him one of the best guards I've ever coached. And one is his mental approach to things. He's a very humble kid, and he's low maintenance. That's odd this day and age. And the second thing, he's a shooter that
guards people. And that's odd in this day and age, or any age, in fact, now that I think back to some of
the guys that we've had many years ago.
So I just think that he came back because he wanted to come back. He came back to try to accomplish more. He stayed up there all summer, didn't go to the USA stuff or this or that. He just wanted to rehab, get healthy and get better. And he's a gym rat.
So I don't see the celebrity side of it bothering him, as long as he stays healthy, which he's had no issues at all. This kid has gotten better and better and I think will get better and be one of the all-time great guards at Michigan State.
Q. Just to piggyback on that question, how big is it going to be, A, to have him healthy, and B, to have him help establish the identity of the rest of your team?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think what he brings to us, we think we could be a great running team. And last year, between Dawson's knee and how slow that came back and Gary after the third game of the year, I mean, unbeknownst to me I think he played hurt three-fourths of the year, not at 100 percent for sure. He's just a tough kid that every time I asked him are you okay, he said yes. He didn't run as well. He's run so much better already that that could change the identity of this year's team. And I think we're going to be able to put more pressure on people. He's better with the ball. I think we're going to use him more in ball screens and things like that.
So his health, his growth, his offseason, I think, is going to be a great part of who we are, and I think the fact that we can run again with both those wings is going to make us a better team.
Q. I think you said you would have more officials coming into practice, things like that. I know you've had one exhibition game. But what are your impressions so far about the rules changes and the effect you think they'll have?
COACH IZZO: If I talk to my buddies, I'm concerned. If I go off our exhibition game, you know, and it's hard to tell when you play with the team and you beat them handily, it's hard to tell. But we did bring in officials for four or five different practices. And it's a little concerning. I think sometimes we have knee-jerk reactions and it will take the veteran guys to make sure they understand. I'm really in favor of the
block charge because I felt people were just running under guys and falling down like bowling pins. And I didn't like that.
But if we want to make this into a complete non-physical game, you know I worry that is that going to be longer games, boringer games, is it going to up scoring, are people going to play more zone? There's always different things that go with each rule change. But we'll adjust and players will adjust and officials will adjust and our conference office and everybody I think will come up with it.
But a little bit of a concern that first couple of weeks since we have a couple of big games, and I'm sure there will be pressure on the officials, pressure on the players, pressure on the coaches, on how it's called and what you do, and we'll see.
Some of the guys I've talked to around the country, friends of mine, former assistants, I've been paranoid about it because they played in games where there's 70, 80, 90 free throws being shot. And that's a little scary. But I think it will balance out. It will be all right.
Q. Being in Chicago, I know you've recruited this area a lot. Is there a different dynamic to recruiting Chicago than other areas of the country?
COACH IZZO: There's always dynamics in bigger cities, because there's more people involved in the recruitment and that goes anywhere. That was in Detroit when it was really hopping. It's in New York and LA and the bigger cities. And yet, each city -- it's cyclical. It moves around. Everybody has its hot few years. I don't know if it's different in any city. I think there's always the same issues. But if there's good players, there's going to be a lot of coaches around. If there's a lot of coaches around there's going to be issues. I don't know if it's any different than anywhere else. But I don't know what else I can say. I don't want to get slapped by somebody for saying the wrong thing as far as talking about recruiting. A lot of good players, a lot of coaches and good players. There's a lot of middlemen.
Q. You've been in the league a while and seen good players come and go. How will the dynamic of the Big Ten looking at the whole league this year be different?
COACH IZZO: In a sum sort of way, I think it's going to be better. I think what's happened is our teams like in Iowa -- I don't want to single Franny out, but I might as well put pressure on him -- but those teams are teams that weren't as good the last couple of years are getting better. Northwestern is -- and it's going to be great for Chris, but I think Bill had done a good job there.
He had some key guys proffered as he could play for any of us out. So I think those kind of teams are going to be better. And I think the rest of us, there's a lot of good teams. I mean, Indiana loses a couple of good players but they've got some good players coming back and well coached, and Michigan is going to be very good. And Ohio State, you know, when you've got Craft and the rest of that crew, they're going to be very good.
So Wisconsin, I think, is going to take another step up even though they lost some key people. Really, does it really matter who Bo has? Face it, they're going to win 25 games either way. So I'm not even sure we have to count them. But I think the league, the difference in this league, when I think back a few years ago, when we were ranked and we played one ranked team in the league, and this last couple of years it could be seven, it could be eight teams, you start playing seven, eight teams and you play them twice, that's 12, 14, 16 games against ranked teams, and that's pretty awesome.
Q. I was curious, Tom, in general with recruiting, how has it changed over the years when it first started and maybe what are challenges now that maybe you didn't have before?
COACH IZZO: I went to a press conference like this and looked out, I didn't see 12 one-and-done media guys, because right now you're the only people that aren't one and done. It's changed a lot. And some for the better. Some for the worse. I am concerned about it. I feel bad for recruits now because I think everybody -- we've almost made the NBA like it's a right instead of it's a privilege.
So it's different in some ways, but I think coaches will adjust better than players. I feel for the players. I think there's more pressure on them in a lot of ways. But there's better players. There's guys that have developed earlier. We've rushed the system, which is okay in some ways.
But it will be interesting to see 10 years from now how many guys were one and done, were two and done in the league, how many guys had success or failed. That's my biggest concern for the game and for the players is does this speeding-up process where we end up recruiting on potential and then drafting on potential, instead of doing both under performance. I think it's a little scary and something we've got to keep an eye on.
But the game is -- a lot of good teams out there. We're ranked second, but, man, I look at teams 10, 12, 14, I just think there's so much parity and they've got to put a number on somebody, and I think it's a privilege to have the number. I really do. And it's going to be fun to live up to it and it's going to be fun to try to -- we've got some big games that first week, and that's going to be exciting.
So I'm looking forward to it. I'm a little bit concerned about some of those things, but at the same time college basketball is as good as it's been and good as it's going to get -- I think it's going to get better, to be honest with you. I'm excited to be a part of it. Great turnout, and see you later.