Michigan State played a strong first half in Thursday night's First Four game against UCLA, but the main story at the break concerned a heated exchange between Tom Izzo and junior forward Gabe Brown as the two were walking off the floor.
After UCLA scored a bucket at the buzzer to cut Michigan State's lead to 11, Izzo chided Brown beneath the basket for missing a defensive switch. When Brown yelled back in disagreement and then turned away, Izzo grabbed him by the arm, then by the back of the jersey as Brown continued walking up the tunnel to the locker room.
It was reminiscent of Izzo's clash with Aaron Henry in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. The difference, in this case, is that there was physical contact between player and coach.
Izzo was asked about his confrontation with Brown shortly after Michigan State's season-ending OT loss in which it blew an 11-point second-half lead.
"You guys are beautiful," he said with a laugh. "He missed a play and I told him and he walked away and I told him to come back. We went through this a couple years ago. After a game like that, that’s the question you’re going to ask? I guess I'll answer it because the media has the right to ask whatever question, but we’ll get him in here and you can ask him. It was a normal nothing. It’s just that in this day and age, everything’s something. It was over a missed switch that we had talked about."
On the TBS postgame show, Kenny Smith said the question deserved to be asked "because it's not normal to see a coach-and-player relationship like that."
"Coaches are there to not create the chaos, but to control it. That chaos was not controlled in that moment, and it was visible. It wasn’t on the bench, it wasn’t in the locker room, it was visible to everybody watching and it wasn’t normal," said Smith. "To me, both were in the wrong. I don’t think anyone was right in that situation. I don’t think that should be normal behavior for any coach or player."
Fellow analyst Charles Barkley, meanwhile, defended Izzo's actions -- much like former Spartan Draymond Green on Twitter.
"This thing is getting out of hand," Barkley said. "A coach can yell at his players. If I yell at my kid and he walks away, I’m gonna grab his arm, 'I’m not done talking to you.' That's the exact same situation. When your parents or your coach is talking to you, you don’t walk away. I’m not gonna be one of these idiots on TV where every time a coach yells at a player, they say the coach is wrong. If your coach is trying to talk to you, you don’t walk away."