On Wednesday, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo knew something had to be done. The Spartans men's basketball team's downfall from the elite ranks in the last week or so has been catastrophic.
Something had to be done.
In this day in age, many players and fans alike have far too many options for social outreach, and when fans and analysts get down on a team, that team can get defensive. So coach Izzo decided to hold a players-only team meeting that he deemed would be "constructive", and allow his athletes to air out any of their frustrations or grievances over the course the team has taken in the past few weeks.
Only issue for Izzo? He wasn't exactly welcome in the meeting himself.
“We didn’t tell Coach to get out but he kind of got the hint and he was like ‘All right, I’m leaving,’ and everybody else came with him,” sophomore center Matt Costello said. “And we were all sitting there just trying to figure it out. We were all confused. We’d had three good, hard practices in a row and then we came to the game and just laid an egg. And we know it’s down to crunch time right now, it’s down to winning time and we haven’t done that recently. So we just hashed it out. Everybody’s concerns, everybody’s frustrations, and we got most of the stuff figured out.”
Junior MSU forward Branden Dawson, who returned for his first game after being out for over a month with a broken hand, saw just how bad things were for the Spartans when they fell 53-46 at home last Saturday to an Illinois team that had lost more Big Ten games than it had won at the time.
“When we hit that wall against Illinois when we tried to come back at the last minute and it was late, we just started, guys started blaming each other and this and that,” Dawson said. “We just can’t do that.”
In the past, Izzo has called these such players-only meetings as "the biggest joke in athletics", but on Wednesday, the coach had no choice but to let his players work out some of their issues on their own after their sixth loss in ten games.
In the end, it sounds like many of the Michigan State players got just what they wanted out of the meeting: A chance to vent over recent losses and a hope at a fresh start.
“We got to talk to each other, get our frustrations out, just try to figure out where we are as a team and just try to get everything out so we can get on one page,” senior forward Adreian Payne said.
“It was a constructive meeting, no one really pointed a finger, no one really blamed each other,” Dawson added. “We just told each other we need to pick it up. Travis (Trice) mentioned every time we play at Breslin, we just have that demeanor like we’re just supposed to win.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.