With his defense lagging and a boundary line call against the Spartans, Tom Izzo had seen enough.
Michigan State's head coach took his frustrations out on a whiteboard Friday as the Spartans earned a 72-62 win over USC in the opening round of NCAA men's tournament play.
Izzo's feelings built on a sequence in the middle of the second half. With 12:55 remaining and the Spartans leading 49–42, the officials whistled Michigan State forward Malik Hall to charge. The call was modest at best. USC's Boogie Ellis fell to the floor with little resistance as Hall posted him on the wing.
Ezzo was furious and quickly reprimanded the officers. USC responded with a dunk on the other end.
Moments later, Michigan State's defense failed to get into position in transition, and USC's Reese Dixon-Waters hit a wide open 3-pointer to cut the Trojans' deficit to 51–47. On the next TV timeout, Izzo turned to his whiteboard.
After consulting with the officials – presumably on the charge call – Izzo got involved in the Michigan State huddle and broke his whiteboard just above his knee.
The moment seemed to serve a dual purpose – venting his frustrations and letting his players know he was disappointed. He broke the board in view of his team.
Michigan State's defense held USC to two points over the next 5:18 of the break, and the Spartans held on for a 10-point victory. After the game, Izzo joked about the whiteboard break with CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdal and color analyst Steve Lappas, former coach at Manhattan, Villanova and UMass.
Izzo told Erdahl, “These are harder to break than the old cardboard ones from Lappas.” “He wouldn't have been strong enough to break it. …
“It's part of the fun. I'm glad you're making fun of me. I love it. … You know what? We're gonna train guys. We're gonna do what we do. … We're going to be tough on them, because defense wins games.”
Breaking whiteboards and clipboards appears to be part of Izzo's repertoire. He has told a story on several occasions about his failed attempt to break the clipboard while coaching Draymond Green, who played at Michigan State from 2008–12. In this instance, Izzo acknowledged that Green was getting on his nerves during a close game.
“I listened to him for a while and finally I told him to shut up.” Izzo told the San Jose Mercury News In a story about his relationship with the Golden State Warriors forward in Sept. “Of course he didn't.”
Izzo said he responded by attempting to smash his clipboard over his knee. Only when a failed second attempt left the clipboard intact did Greene – again, according to Izzo.
“When I did it the second time, Drummond gave it to me, ‘Hey coach, you better hit the weight room,'” Izzo said. “Everybody started laughing, and it broke the ice, and we went ahead and won big.”
In these two instances, Izzo's clipboard routine appeared to work. It didn't hurt, at least in terms of the end result. Will we see it again this March? Izzo's next chance comes in Sunday's second-round matchup against Marquette.