Izzo passionate discussing Weber's firing
Tom Izzo was only a few minutes into his postgame press conference when somebody asked about the news of the day -- Bruce Weber's firing at Illinois. He asked to wait until the end. 'My wife and I shed tears this morning,' he said. 'Some were for Bruce. Some were for our profession.'
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Izzo was only a few minutes into his postgame press conference when somebody asked about the news of the day -- specifically Bruce Weber's firing at Illinois.
"How about if we hold that until the end because I'd like to say some good things about my team, and then I'd like to get to some things that I think are not very good," Izzo said. "I will come back to it, I promise."
Izzo was true to his word. Before exiting the stage tucked away here in a corner of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Michigan State coach -- whose Spartans had just cruised to a 92-75 win over Iowa in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals -- spent several minutes talking passionately about the man he called a "friend" and "great coach," and Izzo made it clear this development made him feel "sick" about the direction of his profession.
"My wife and I shed tears this morning," Izzo said. "Some were for Bruce. Some were for our profession."
Izzo was most bothered by the fact that Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas went on radio Feb. 11 and declined to publicly back Weber while taking calls from frustrated fans. The Illini were 16-8 at the time with wins over Ohio State, Michigan State and Gonzaga. They were in all projected NCAA tournament brackets, but Weber's job security remained a hot topic. When asked about it that day, Thomas said this: "Yes, obviously, that's something people are paying attention to right now. As I've always said, I will assess the situation at the end of the season no different than I do with the other 18 sports, no different than I did for the football program. I need to look at the total body of work and all of the things that come into play as far as making those decisions. Because those are important decisions and they affect a lot of people."
Those comments caused national headlines and intensified the pressure on Weber. Illinois then lost seven of its next eight games, including Thursday's opener in the Big Ten tournament that dropped its record to 17-15 and led to Weber's firing Friday morning. Izzo traced the downward spiral directly to Thomas' comments. He said he believes Thomas "pulled the rug out from underneath" Weber at a point when the season was still salvageable.
"I think it was ridiculous the way that thing was handled," Izzo said. "And if I take abuse for that, I really don't care. ... This isn't about a friendship. This is about a profession. And whenever you're in an organization ... the only way you can be successful is if, top to bottom, from the president to the trainer, we're all on the same page.
"I feel bad for the Illini nation because somebody pulled the rug out from underneath them," Izzo added. "If you look at that team from [Thomas' statement], it went directly down. ... So I hope the administrator that made those comments has a good gameplan because [Illinois] lost a good guy. We lost a good guy. And I just hope he gets another job, and I'm going to do everything in my power to help him."
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