EAST LANSING – Draymond Green’s relationship with Tom Izzo stretches back more than 15 years. And the former Michigan Star star and four-time NBA world champion Green is certain big things are once more in store for MSU basketball.
It’s because of the vibe he’s getting from his former coach.
“I think he’s as hungry as he’s been since I’ve been here,” Green said Friday about Izzo, during a press conference prior to Green’s induction into MSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
Big things aren’t new for Izzo, who has a national championship, eight Final Four appearances and 10 Big Ten regular-season titles in a career that’s already earned him a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. But the past two seasons haven’t been up to his normal standards. MSU has finished eighth and seventh, respectively, in the Big Ten standings the past two seasons and hasn’t gotten past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since its last Final Four appearance in 2019.
Green said even legends experience ebbs and flows.
“I think we all go through those times where you may lose a little bit of that fire, throughout the course of the journey, on the way to greatness,” Green said. “Sometimes you can lose a little bit of that fire. But the real ones get it back. That’s the test.”
Green knows the feeling.
After a remarkable five-year run from 2015-19, during which Green’s Golden State team won three NBA titles and reached the finals all five years, the next two seasons were forgettable. Decimated by injuries, the Warriors went 15-50 in 2019-20 and 39-33 in 2020-21. But the team bounced back last season, ending with its fourth NBA championship in Green’s 10 years as a pro.
“I lost some fire a couple years ago, but the real ones get it back — and then win championships ,” Green said with a smile. “Coach Izzo has done that over and over and over again.”
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From talking with Izzo, as he does regularly, Green noticed his former coach has “found that fire again.” If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have signed a five-year contract extension last month, Green said.
“That’s not how he is. He’s not a guy who chases a check. Guy spends $2 a year,” Green said with a laugh. “He’s got a lot of money. He’s not someone chasing a check.”
What he’s chasing is more victories. And championships.
“He’s a real winner. He taught us to be winners,” Green said. “That’s what you learn at Michigan State: You learn how to win. And it’s all led by him.”
Green said if words aren’t enough to prove Izzo is determined to ascend to college basketball’s mountaintop again, just look at the Spartans’ recent recruiting efforts. Their 2023 class is fighting to be No. 1 in the nation, highlighted by one of the country’s top prospects in Indianapolis star forward Xavier Booker.
“Here comes a championship,” Green said. “It’s on the way. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Whether that comes to pass, it won’t change the way Green feels about Izzo. He pointed out that whenever he runs into “a little trouble” with the Warriors, the first person they call is Izzo. They want to know what they should do, how best to handle Green.
“I’m thankful for them for caring so much to call him, but I’m even more thankful for him still taking the call, because he doesn’t have to,” Green said. “We all get in our minds like, ‘Oh, you owe that to me.’ He don’t owe me nothing. He don’t owe me anything. But he continues to give to me. So as long as I can, I’ll continue to give to him.”
Green hopes the next thing Izzo gives him — and Michigan State fans everywhere — is another national championship banner.
“I’m so excited to see him rediscover that passion and that grind,” he said, “because the real ones always do.”
Contact Ryan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.