If you were to turn on a Michigan State basketball game for the first time, having no prior knowledge about coach Izzo, you would be immediately taken by the emotional reactions he has to his players. Everyone has a story of watch him fly of the handle, screaming in the face of one of his guys during a time out. It can look as though he is a bit crazy in his actions and interactions with players and officials.
The fact of the matter is there is one reason that he has the ability to do that and that is time. The commitment of time that is spent developing relationships with individuals and gaining a clear understanding of what buttons to push and how they can be pushed.
It’s been said that Abraham Lincoln spent the majority of his time during his four years as president with his troops. They were number one to him; they were the people who were going to get the job done. He would visit people in their homes and offices. Having conversations and gaining as much knowledge about them so he could make swift decisions when the time came.
Tom Izzo is the same way, he’ll call you at any time of the day, pick you up and ride around campus and talk, meet you in the offices. It’s his dedication to the relationships that allows him a depth of understanding about each and every individual.
The same philosophy filtered down to the assistant coaches as well. I had assistant coaches stop by my apartment just to check in and see how things were going. They want to know how things are going away from the game of basketball and if there is anything they can do to help.
As Lincoln said when speaking about a general he was going to fire, “his cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”