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Thursday, October 14, 2010
Tom Izzo: I should have been more open

By Eamonn Brennan

After Tom Izzo's two-week dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a euphoric Michigan State administration held a news conference to welcome Izzo back to the school with open arms. They also had their wagging fingers ready. MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon, unhappy about the rampant speculation surrounding Izzo's rumored departure, gave the assembled media a lecture about ethics and responsibility. Athletic director Mark Hollis soon followed suit. When Izzo eventually reached the podium, he got into a brief, awkward spat with a Detroit-area sports columnist, and by the end of the news conference everyone seemed like they needed a beer.

Tom Izzo
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo learned from his flirtation with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
A few months later, well after all this had died down, Izzo admitted that he might not have handled the entire situation as well as he could have. From MLive.com:
Izzo said he has contemplated how he handled that process in the months since then, including talking to other people about how they believe such a situation should be handled, and said he “should’ve been more available” while talking with the Cavaliers.

He's exactly right. Izzo cloistered himself away from media for two weeks, and understandably so -- he wanted the chance to make a potentially life-altering decision with his family, friends, and a lack of outside influence. But this sort of silence fuels speculation. It breeds rumor. It gives reporters no other choice but to collect as much information from second-hand sources as possible. And when the dust finally settled, the Michigan State administration was there to blame the media.

Was some of that the media's fault? Sure. Was it perfect in its coverage of Izzo? No. That goes for mainstream types, blogs, whatever. But if Izzo had handled his decision-making process with more transparency -- if he had taken 10 minutes one day to sit down with a reporter and said, "Hey, look, I'm thinking about this, it's out there, but nothing is final yet, it may never be final, you guys will be the first to know, and I'd appreciate your respect for my process and my family's privacy in the meantime" the messy backchannel stuff and second-hand "multiple sources" nonsense would have gained far less traction. It wouldn't have been necessary. Izzo would have commanded that level of respect.

Which is not to pick on the Spartans head coach. His case is long since over; it's more instructive than anything. But when the next major head coach considers a job jump, and the rumors start flying, he should take a word of advice from Izzo. Be honest about it. Secrets, as they say, are no fun.