Simply, he said producing NBA lottery picks matter more to recruits than a national title on the Colin Cowherd Show. Izzo has as many national titles as lottery picks in his 20-year coaching career at Michigan State – Jason Richardson in 2001 and a 2000 national title. He has had six players leave early, with Gary Harris being the first early departure since 2006 when he left after last season.
On Thursday, as Michigan State prepares to face Oklahoma to get halfway to a national title, Izzo said the Spartans are making strides in recruiting and he is learning lessons as his team advances.
“We’re making some progress,” Izzo said, “until you recruit against certain people.”
A big part of the progress being made has come back to Izzo himself, as he has come to find comfort again in having a family environment around the Michigan State program being a major selling point. It is something he has wavered with as he has sought and missed on some high-profile recruits in recent years.
But the current team as it has put together a little run in March has provided a lesson.
”That’s what our university is all about,” Izzo said. “I’m getting more comfortable selling that again, too. … You’ve gotta have players that wanna be here, that wanna play for the university, that wanna play to win a championship.
”This group, we’ve got a long way to go, but we are in the hunt and it’s getting later in March.”
Another element of the progress has been the emergence of Draymond Green as a second-round pick with Golden State Warriors. The former Spartan and current Warrior is getting a lot of attention as he approaches a free agent season.
”Any positive publicity and with Draymond, Magic (Johnson) I think is coming back,” Izzo said. “With all those things, somebody out there is going to appreciate the family atmosphere and the fact that you come here, you’re not just a person, a fly on the wall. You are going to be appreciated by the players before you, the players with you, the alums.”
And that is what Izzo has come to realize he wants to sell to recruits, as every school has something to sell.
”I will say this: I’ve always been a coach that believed in personal goals and team goals,” he said. “I want guys to want to get to the NBA. I want them to want to get to tomorrow. I want guys that care about their own individuals goals, whether it be becoming All-American, leading scorers and all that.
”But also guys that winning’s important to and I think NBA people want guys that think winning is important, too. Just that constant battle to try and put two different things together to come up with this great player that is a winner and a superstar. We’re working on it.”
So when he was asked about this latest Sweet 16 berth being validation or satisfaction in having done it without the one-and-done type recruits, Izzo joked if the trade deadline had passed or not. But he returned to say he was not sure if it is validation, but he just did what he had to do as a coach to win as he adjusted to talent and played to his system.
”I know one thing: I wouldn’t trade anybody as far as the way these guys have handled things, winning and losing, the frustration of the free-throw situation we went through and how they handled that, what they are as students, what they are as people,” Izzo said. “I’m cool with it all.”