OPINION: Izzo Can't Play Nice With Crean

The hiring of former Michigan State lead assistant and Marquette head coach Tom Crean now sets up an interesting dilemma for Michigan State head coach. How does he deal with facing a former assistant twice a season with the stakes as high as they are for both?

EAST LANSING - The hiring of former Michigan State lead assistant and Marquette head coach Tom Crean now sets up an interesting dilemma for Michigan State head coach.

How does he deal with facing a former assistant twice a season with the stakes as high as they are for both?

Here's a suggestion: Put the hammer down.

Izzo loves Crean just as he loves all his former assistants like Brian Gregory (Dayton), Jim Boylan (Utah) and Stan Heath (South Florida) but he and Crean may have been the closest of all.

Izzo has made no secret of the fact that he doesn't like playing against Crean and Crean has at times said the same thing.

Two years ago, the two faced each other in the opening round of the NCAA tournament when the Spartans ousted the Marquette Warriors, 61-49.

Prior to the contest, Crean's wife Joani stated "They are the best of friends. They have known each other since Tom was 18, let's just hope they're still hugging when the game is over."

After the game, Izzo said "It was a very difficult prep week for me. Yet I'm learning that it's going to happen in this business. You're going to play your friends sometimes."

Now he'll have to deal with it twice a season.

While no one doesn't think Izzo won't be professional on the basketball court, will his emotions take a toll on him throughout the season. And could it cost MSU some players when he has to go head-to-head against his old buddy they no doubt will do?

One player think the relationship might have something to do with Michigan State's hot-then-cold interest in him.

"Michigan State (interest) has been on and off because I know Izzo and Crean are 'boys'," said Racine Horlick's Jamil Wilson on of the Midwest's and the nation's top swingmen. "So (recruiting interest) has been kind of on and off with them."

Maybe Wilson's perception is wrong, but its not a good perception for any recruit to have.

It's going to be a fact of life playing and recruiting against Crean.

He's an outstanding basketball coach, a solid tactician and a dogged recruiter. He's going to restore the pride of Indiana basketball and he's going to be a tough competitor.

Izzo can't afford to give Crean even one iota of an opening for players or on the court because IU will be a force all by themselves.

So Tom, take a note from Isiah and Magic, exchange a solid handshake, even the peck on the cheek courtside.

But put away the sentimentality and put off the dinner dates until the summer.

Recruiting time and game time means putting the hammer down on your boy.

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