Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about the expectations on the Spartans this season and the difficult schedule to open the season. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Rosemont, Ill. — Early last December wasn’t the best of times for Fred Hoiberg.
He had just been fired as coach of the Chicago Bulls, and for the first time in a long time, Hoiberg didn’t have much to do.
So, with his son Jack a walk-on at Michigan State, the former Iowa basketball legend who starred at Iowa State in the early 1990’s before returning as the Cyclones coach from 2010-15 headed to East Lansing. Yes, he was able to be close to his son, but it also afforded Hoiberg the chance to spend some time with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
“Yeah, Coach Izzo is one of my favorites,” Hoiberg explained at Big Ten media day on Wednesday. “When I got let go in December last year in Chicago, I spent a lot of time in East Lansing. For me, it was more beneficial to go up and watch the practices because Jack had a huge role running the scout team as the point guard.
“I'd spend days with Coach Izzo — even on a game day we spent three hours together just writing ideas up on the board and talking about different things, X's and O's-wise.”
Hoiberg followed the Spartans closely, traveling along with the other families to the Big Ten tournament and then all the way to the Final Four. But he wanted to coach again, so when the Nebraska job opened, the Lincoln native was the obvious choice.
“I'm looking forward to getting back on the sidelines,” Hoiberg said. “I'd had enough of waking up and drinking coffee and watching game shows and doing puzzles. I'd had enough of that. So I was ready to get back out here, and I'm really excited to be at Nebraska.”
And like Izzo has done for so many coaches through the years, he worked hard to support Hoiberg.
“I have relied on him, and I've talked to him a lot,” Hoiberg said. “You know, I consider him a very good friend in this business, and there's not a better guy to lean on than Coach Izzo, who's done as much as he has and who's respected as much as he is.”'
Izzo said he enjoyed the “chalk talks” with Hoiberg and joked about wishing he could have some more now that they’re coaching against each other.
He knows that’s not happening, but he’s also pulling for Hoiberg to turn Nebraska into a winner.
“It’s a pretty unique situation and the fans at Nebraska to me are some of the best,” Izzo said. “When they weren't even great they've packed that place, and I've enjoyed Nebraska people. It'll be fun to see Fred there, we just probably won't share chalk talks anymore.
“So I think I think Fred's gonna do really well there. I think it's the perfect fit.”
Michigan State junior Xavier Tillman and senior Cassius Winston talk about the upcoming season at Big Ten media day. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Izzo has never tried to hide his disgust with social media, namely Twitter.
So he was the happiest guy in the room recently when the players decided to log off, opting to dump social media until after the season.
“We had a meeting a couple weeks ago,” forward Xavier Tillman said. “We were like, ‘Hey, in order to get what we need, everybody sacrifice something that means a lot to us.’ Social media for us teenagers is what it is, so we got rid of Twitter and that was huge.”
Izzo has gone on long rants in the past about the downfalls of social media.
“Twitter is something because I don't like when they read what everybody says,” Izzo said. “I think that screws up more kids. I really do. It screws up more people, so if it means that they're going to take that seven, eight hours of social media that the average college student is doing and we could get it down to five, I'd be happy.”
There’s no reason to panic, but guard Cassius Winston — the reigning player of the year in the Big Ten who was named preseason player of the year Wednesday — has missed a few days of practice with a hamstring injury.
Winston described it as “nothing major,” and said he should be 100 percent in a few days.
… Senior guard Joshua Langford said there are no plans to seek a redshirt after he played only 13 games last season. A foot injury that led to surgery cost him most of his junior year, but Langford said the plan is for this to be his last season at Michigan State.
“This will be my last year,” Langford said. “I don't think I would go for a redshirt unless God says something different. I’m just excited for this senior year and ready for what is to come in this senior year because I believe this season is gonna be a great season.”
… Michigan State is still awaiting official word on whether the wavier on forward Joey Hauser will be approved by the NCAA after he transferred in the offseason from Marquette. However, Izzo isn’t counting on Hauser being eligible this season.
"It's not official, but it doesn't look very good,” Izzo said.
… The Spartans have not voted yet on captains, but Izzo said he’s “90 percent sure” the three players that were at media day would end up being this season’s captains. Langford was named a captain before last season while Winston was elevated to that role during the season. Xavier Tillman would be a first-time captain.