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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo calls heated exchange with Gabe Brown ‘a normal nothing’

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo clinches both fists as he yells to players during a game against UCLA.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo yells to his players during the second half of Thursday’s game against UCLA at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
(Robert Franklin / Associated Press)

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo grabbed Spartans forward Gabe Brown by the arm and jersey during a heated exchange during the Spartans’ First Four game against UCLA on Thursday night.

After his team’s 86-80 overtime loss, Izzo described the incident as “a normal nothing.”

“He missed a play and I told him, and he walked away and so I told him to come back,” the longtime Spartans coach told reporters.

With the first half coming to a close, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit an open jump shot that pulled the Bruins within 44-33. As the teams headed into the tunnel for halftime, Izzo was seen on the TBS broadcast grabbing Brown by the arm, then pulling on the player’s jersey as he attempted to walk away.

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Brown pulled his jersey out of his coach’s grasp, then headed down the tunnel. Izzo chased behind him, leading Brown to turn around to apparently confront his coach.

Izzo was asked about the incident with the second question of his news conference following the season-ending loss. He laughed, but clearly wasn’t happy. He called the reporters “beautiful,” but it wasn’t a compliment.

The Bruins’ overtime victory over Michigan State was perhaps the most symbolic win in the 13 years since they last roamed the Final Four.

“A game like that, that’s the question you’re going to ask me?” Izzo said. “I guess I’ll answer it because the media has the right to ask whatever question, but, you know, we’ll get him in here and you can ask him. I mean, it was a normal nothing. It’s just that this day and age everything’s something. It was over a missed switch that we had talked about.”

Brown was not made available for comment by the NCAA after the game.

The weight room provided to women’s basketball players competing in the NCAA tournament is nowhere close to the elaborate setup the men enjoy.

Two years ago during the NCAA tournament, Izzo received national attention for angrily yelling and pointing in the face of then-freshman Aaron Henry. “I mean, we went through this a couple of years ago,” Izzo said Thursday in an apparent reference to the Henry incident.

Some of Izzo’s former players took to Twitter to defend the coach, who has led the Spartans to eight Final Fours and one NCAA championship in his 26 seasons with the team.

“Typical Michigan State exchange,” wrote Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, who played for Michigan State from 2008 to 2012.

“Haters, gone say that ain’t a good look wit Izz and Gabe Brown. Ima tell you, that’s WINNING basketball!!” said Delvon Roe, who played for Michigan State from 2008 to 2011. “Get in each other face , it might not look pretty but it shows you give a damn! #TheSpartanWay”

Another former Spartan who predates the Izzo era called the confrontation “a mistake in the heat of the moment.”

“Both men should apologize, grow from this and get better, and move on,” Lakers legend Magic Johnson tweeted.


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