I knew long before I walked into Tom Izzo's press conference on Saturday afternoon that he was going to defend Indiana coach Tom Crean. The two are close friends, and Crean worked for Izzo at Michigan State before getting a shot as a head coach. Izzo has always had nothing but nice things to say about Crean.
But even knowing what I did, I was still surprised by the emotion and the passion with which Izzo spoke of Crean. His words were strong, and they made a lot of sense. Izzo was honest, and it was refreshing.
"When you have incidents that happen that are completely out of your hands, that distraction is incredible," Izzo said, referencing off-court incidents at Indiana prior to the season. "I talked Tom off the ledge then. I couldn't believe how positive he was. I talked to him every night in the hospital [with Devin Davis]. Sometimes these kids do not understand that 'my bad,' that's for the playground. You can't be 'my bad' at this level and compete at this level for championships. 'My bad' doesn't make it.
"He's a great recruiter. He's a great Xs and Os coach. I think he gets misread sometimes for a variety of reasons, some he needs to own up to and some he doesn't. You can't have distractions and be successful at this level if you care. Am I a little frustrated with it? Yeah, I am. Do I think he is a hell of a coach? Yes, I do. I'm telling you the guy can coach and the guy can recruit. He built my program. He helped me build my program. My program wouldn't be as good as it is without Tom Crean."