Aaron Henry, a freshman at Michigan State, was less than a year old when the Spartans won a men’s basketball national championship in 2000.
Nineteen years later, the coach of that 2000 squad, Tom Izzo, is Henry’s coach in college.
After Henry, in the coach’s view, was playing poorly in Michigan State’s first-round NCAA Tournament win over Bradley on Thursday, Izzo gave an earful to the young man.
Izzo and Henry got into it so fiercely that guard Cassius Winston had to separate the two.
Tom Izzo goes after Aaron Henry pretty hard. pic.twitter.com/A4KUMT6XWa
— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) March 21, 2019
And if you’re expecting that staple of 2019, the adult apologizing for disciplining a collegian, keep waiting and pack a lunch.
Izzo stood his ground and defended his actions.
“There were some things Aaron didn’t do a very good job of. … I did get after him,” Izzo said after the game. “He did respond. He did make a couple of big buckets. He did make some big free throws, but that’s not good enough. This is one-and-done time. The ‘my-bads’ are out the window. … If they’re ‘my-bads’ because I decided to jog back instead of sprint back, then it is your bad and you’re going to hear about it. So that’s what it was.”
He said he was just holding his players accountable.
“I get a kick out of you guys,” Izzo told the reporters after a follow-up question. “You get after somebody because you’re trying to hold them accountable. I don’t know what kind of business you’re in, but I tell you what, if I was the head of a newspaper and you didn’t do your job, you’d be held accountable. That’s the way it is.”
Considering Izzo was winning national championships and making Final Fours when Henry was literally still in diapers, and considering that one of Izzo’s star players from that era, Zach Randolph, just wrapped up a 17-year NBA career during which the lessons learned from his coach led him to almost 20,000 career points and over 10,000 rebounds, maybe the young man should listen.
Even Henry downplayed the controversy, pointing out in essence that he knew what he was signing up for when he committed to wearing the green and white of a school with a proud tradition that gave the basketball world Magic Johnson.
“I’ve heard worse from him,” Henry said. “I’ve got it worse in practice before.”
Henry ended up with just eight points against a 15th seed, and “my bad” doesn’t win championships.
Winston, meanwhile, executed a diplomatic move that people will want to remember when he ends up in coaching someday.
“I understand where he’s coming from,” he said of Henry, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I feel like at that moment, I can get the message to him better (than Izzo), you know what I’m saying? So stepped in and said, ‘What do you need me to say? I’ll handle it.’”
“At that moment.” That is a wonderfully mature recognition of complementary leadership styles that both acknowledges the modern tendency for the carrot to work more than the stick while at the same time respecting Izzo’s disciplinarian streak.
ESPN’s Seth Greenberg summed up the moment in a tweet.
If you have ever been around Tom Izzo and his players you would understand the special relationship he has with them. You would understand that they appreciate him,his passion and him holding them accountable . You would understand that accountability what makes @MSU_Basketball
— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) March 22, 2019
The Spartans face 10 seed Minnesota on Saturday after the Golden Gophers shocked Louisville.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.