Tom Izzo truly appreciates his players, present and former. And vice versa.
While in town on this year’s first weekend, former Michigan State Spartan Adreian Payne, now in his second season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, visited with his former coach, Izzo, who had just lost his father.
“Coach, this is one time I can help you, because you helped me a lot to go through things,” reported Izzo during a short MSR interview, after his team’s win over the Gophers January 2. “That was awesome. He and I spent so much time together. I really appreciate that and I love the kid.”
Payne has gone through similar circumstances, losing loved ones. He spent quality time with the late Lacey Holsworth, who died in 2014 from cancer. Payne first met Holsworth during a team-sponsored hospital visit in 2011. He also brought Holsworth — also known as “Princess Lacey” — on the court with him on Senior Night. She later helped Payne cut down the nets after State won the conference tournament.
Payne’s friendship with Holsworth “was not manufactured by our media or by us,” recalls Izzo. “He [Payne] went two years and no one knew he was doing it. Then it became public.”
This season Izzo will surpass Gene Keady for the second most victories at a Big Ten school, and is third all-time in Big Ten wins as well.
As only the school’s second basketball coach in the last 40 seasons, and third in the last 47, Izzo, now in his 21st season, has won one national championship (2000), made the national title game in 2009 in Detroit — an event covered by the MSR, the only Minnesota media in attendance — and reached the Final Four six times. He told us that he is where he is today because of players such as Payne and countless others.
“Where I live now and what I drive, I always say that if it wasn’t for the Draymond (Green’s) and the AP’s (Payne) and the (Mateen) Cleaves’ — they gave me a chance to live my life a certain way,” said Izzo. “I think that for me, what I can do for them…I want them to make it so that they can have a life, and hopefully help their parents.
“The last 20 years, I was able to do a lot of things for my parents,” said Izzo. “Brought them a house. Took them to Final Fours. Fly them all over the world. That’s pretty awesome to be able to do that.”
More on Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo in Another View.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.