How the Tom Izzo-Aaron Henry incident is the pinnacle of soft America

During Michigan State’s 1st-round win in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, a heated exchange was caught between Spartans head coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State freshman forward Aaron Henry. This exchange led to the ire of many people on social media, condemning Izzo’s actions towards Henry.

Many called for an apology, Izzo did not offer one, “You guys get after someone trying to hold someone accountable. I don’t know what kind of business you’re in, but I tell you what, if I was the head of a newspaper and you didn’t do your job, you’d be held accountable”.

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Izzo doubled down on his intense lecture on Henry on Des Moines radio station 1460 KXNO the following morning when asked if he was surprised someone asked him if he’d apologize. “Oh my god, apologize for telling him to do something I had told him a bunch of times that he hadn’t done? I don’t think that’s the case.”

I applaud Tom Izzo, actually, he deserves a standing ovation. He is not backing down to the masses of people in today’s world who think that coddling players and not hurting their feelings is what every coach should do. It isn’t, and honestly, the coaches at the top of every respective sport don’t coddle players whatsoever.

Aaron Henry himself said that he wasn’t deterred at all by the “berating” at the hands of the longtime Michigan State coach. “He knows that I think I can rise to the challenge, because I’ve been doing that all year I feel like. It’s just if my plate gets bigger, I got more food to eat. I just gotta eat it.”

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I can relate to Aaron Henry on a very personal level, I know exactly what it’s like getting chewed out again and again and again. I played football in high school for a powerhouse program in the Madrid Tigers and a legendary coach in Randy Hinkel. Coach Hinkel is one of 12 coaches in the state of Iowa to have amassed 300 career wins.

Coach Randy Hinkel (center) on the sideline during a scrimmage against West Central Valley in 2015

Coach Hinkel had a huge impact on hundreds, if not thousands of former players that donned the orange and black in The Jungle on Friday nights. However, he didn’t do so by telling everyone how great they were. He was a demanding coach, and he was never afraid to yell at a kid when he screwed up. A lot of the time, I was the kid who screwed up.

But he got on me the most for the same reason Tom Izzo got on Aaron Henry: He believed I could rise to the occasion and be something special. Coach and I always didn’t see eye to eye, but at the end of the day, I trusted him no matter what and he not only believed in me, he made me believe in myself.

Same goes for Tom Izzo, while he is demanding on the court, hundreds, and even thousands of players say that he is the reason that they were able to make the transformation from a boy to a man.

Tim Bograkos played for Tom Izzo from 2000 to 2005, and in a guest column for the Detroit Free Press, wrote that he was ever so thankful for Coach Izzo’s guidance. “It was the hardest five years I have ever had, mentally and physically”, Borgrakos said. “But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

But this issue has led me to another stance, we’re at the pinnacle of tissue-soft America. Everyday, it feels like there’s a new scandal on social media about someone reaming another person for doing the wrong thing and holding them accountable…and then the person holding them accountable is vilified for being “too harsh”.

Coach Izzo talked of accountability in his quote at the top of this column, it reminds me of Coach Hinkel too. Accountability was one of the main traits Coach Hinkel looked for in a player. “If you can’t be held accountable, you will never see the field”, he always used to say.

Accountability isn’t something that is just required for the court or the field: it’s required in life. It reminds me of an interview Coach Hinkel gave after a game in which we had gotten our teeth kicked in “This loss helps create character, what kind of husbands are we gonna be? What kind of employers, what kind of fathers are we gonna be?”

In today’s world, it’s harder than ever to find blunt honesty, mainly because people are either A.) afraid to say it, or B.) don’t want to hear it. Tom Izzo is one of those people in the public eye that are not afraid to give brutal honesty, Coach Hinkel was also one of those guys. Not a day goes by where I don’t try to be honest with people and not sugar-coat situations and that is because of Coach Hinkel.

As for Tom Izzo, I have respected him for many years, this only adds that much more respect to his name for me. He is a guy who has done right, who has been demanding and strives for his players to be to the best of their ability, on and off the court. Never change coach, the world needs more people like you.

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