It's never something that any coach hopes to have to deal with, but when two of your best athletes get involved in a serious altercation that causes property damage and blown-out egos, as a head coach, you have to respond. Michigan State's Tom Izzo did just that on Wednesday.
What makes it even all the more troubling was the fact that this incident was not an altercation between two members of opposing teams, but rather, one of teammate versus teammate; Spartan versus Spartan.
Adreian Payne, the 6-foot-10 forward who has been quiet on the court as of late, started the first 20 minutes of Wednesday's match up at Penn State seated on the bench under the scornful eyes of MSU head coach, Tom Izzo. Payne and teammate Branden Dawson broke out into a fight at the team's hotel in Pennsylvania that eventually resulted in some property damage (of which coach Izzo assured that both players will be personally paying for).
Listening to Payne talk about the incident after the fact, though, it sounds more like some egos and pride may have taken more damage than any of the property in the actual hotel room.
"There were a couple words that escalated into an incident, a tussle. We were tussling and bumped into a wall," Payne said. "I feel embarrassed and want to apologize to Penn State and our program."
Dawson agreed with the statement made by Payne, corroborating that the altercation was, in fact, a serious one that could have gotten worse.
"It kind of got out of hand," Dawson added. "We deserved it."
So when Izzo announced that both players would be benched for the first 20 minutes of the Spartans' match up with the Nittany Lions, many didn't expect to see anything extraordinary on the court from either young athlete. But then, Payne decided to up his game and make a resilient statement to bounce back from being in Izzo's "doghouse". When his 20 minutes on the bench came to a close, Payne entered the game with a force and added a career-best 20 points as the 18th-ranked Michigan State Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) defeated the Nittany Lions 81-72.
No better time to make a statement to your coach that you're ready to put the petty personal issues aside and take control of a game, huh?
In the end, the fight behind the scenes may not be as troubling as it seems in the big scale of things this season, but with the addition of coach Izzo's recent comments concerning his player's use of Twitter and other social media as a major detriment, it does present itself as yet another issue that will need to be dealt with sooner, rather than later.
But if there's one coach out there who knows how to wrangle in some pretty big personalities and talents in time of need, you need look no farther than coach Tom Izzo.
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.