This summer, as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo weighed a potentially career-defining move to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Spartans fans held a vigil outside the Breslin Center. Few players were in attendance, but at least one was there. That player was Derrick Nix.
Nix gave an impassioned speech to the assembled fans and media. With a tear in his eye, Nix thanked the green masses, telling them that he was "emotional about all this" because he "[didn't] want Coach Izzo to leave." It takes a big man to cry; it takes an even bigger one to cry in public. Nix's emotional moment cemented the relationship Izzo seems to have with his players, and it provided a backdrop for the disappointment they -- and fans -- would face if Izzo left.
It was strange, then, to see how Nix's season 2010-11 season would begin. Citing "personal reasons," the 6-foot-8 center didn't travel to Maui with his team; Izzo told the media he suspected Nix's sparse playing time in the team's first two games this season caused Nix to approach Izzo about leaving the team. Either way, it didn't bode well for Nix's future under Izzo, a coach he clearly seemed to love just a few months ago.
Good news for Spartans fans, then: Nix rejoined his team this weekend and played in Michigan State's win against Tennessee Tech on Sunday. And, for now, the situation appears to have been resolved. From the Lansing State Journal:
Derrick Nix sat in East Lansing on Tuesday night, watching the rest of the Michigan State men's basketball team lose to Connecticut in Maui. Then the result of his actions finally hit him.
"I felt stupid," Nix said. "Like, 'Dang, I should be there.' " ... "All I can say is I let my team down in a big way," Nix said.
"He's got some issues and we're going to try to get him a little bit of time, but he has to prove and earn that dedication to this program and these players," Izzo said. "It's not the coaches; he let down the players."
Whether Nix will become a major contributor this season is still up in the air. But Spartans fans warmly welcomed him Sunday, and he seems to have realized the perils involved with confronting your coach about playing time in such a manner.
Meanwhile, the Spartans need all the size they can get: Izzo has used sophomore Garrick Sherman and freshman Adreian Payne alongside Delvon Roe in MSU's early games, but neither was a good complement to Roe, and for point-forward Draymond Green to be successful, he can't be the biggest player on the floor. With Nix playing up to potential, the Spartans could have one of the deeper frontcourts in the country. We'll see.