Michigan State's Tom Izzo blasts Illinois AD Mike Thomas for sabotaging, then firing Bruce Weber
Graham Couch | email@example.com
Posted: 03/09/2012 4:15 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo knew his mood was about the change Friday afternoon when he was asked about Bruce Weber — his friend and respected former Big Ten colleague, who was fired by the University of Illinois Friday morning after nine seasons.
So, following a 92-75 Big Ten tournament quarterfinal win over Iowa, Izzo asked to return to the topic of Weber's dismissal at the end of his postgame press conference.
When Izzo did, the only sign he was holding anything back game came late in a five-minute verbal ripping of Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, when Izzo said, "If this was HBO, we could get at it right now and I'd really be fired up."
Izzo never addressed Thomas by name, but left zero doubt who he was criticizing, chastising Illinois' first-year AD for sabotaging Weber and this year's Illini with his public lack of support midseason.
"Now we've got administrators that are pulling the rug out from under ourselves in the middle of January when they're 16-6 or -7 and whatever it was, (administrators) publicly talk about 'We'll make decisions at the end of the year,'" Izzo said, an edge to his tone the entire time. "I don't know what you think of kids, because they haven't changed much, but if there's one place they've changed, they're a little more fragile.
"So now we put that (saving Weber's job) on those poor kids. And then we're surprised that they lose 9 out of 10. I don't know who's beaten me the worst, probably Bo (Ryan), but second on that list (is Weber), and I'm canonized as something some of the time.
"I think it's ridiculous the way that thing was handled. And if I take abuse for that, I really don't care, because I'm also president of our (coaches) association. 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 the top to bottom, from the president to the trainer are all on the same page."
The comments from Thomas actually took placed during a Feb. 11 radio Q&A with fans, when Thomas failed to publicly back Weber and said he'd assess the situation at the end of the season, after which Illinois, then 16-8, lost seven of its final eight games.
Izzo spoke of his dismay at the time in this Feb. 14 MLive.com column that questioned Thomas' leadership.
"If you look at that team from that statement, they went directly down," Izzo continued Friday. "I feel worse for Bruce, because we lost a good soldier and yeah, friendship is some of it, but it's not all of it. We lost a good coach. We got a coach that beat me and my team more often than not. I just, I can't figure it out.
"My wife and I shed a tear this morning over it and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession. But unless there are things that I don't know … but when I heard those comments back in (February) it made me sick. And I said 'There's a problem.'
"I hope that administrators that make those statements have a good game plan.
"I mean this guy's won more games, by percentage, than anybody who's ever been at the school. And he's done it the right way and that's not easy to do. And it's not an easy job there.
"I know this, I've known Bruce Weber since the day I was a grad assistant (at Michigan State and Weber an assistant at Purdue). There's not a classier, better guy, better coach, who's had some things thrown at him, too."