Bulls coach Jim Boylen says people upset with Tom Izzo are overly sensitive
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Some topics are pretty easy to get Jim Boylen to comment on. And Friday included one of the easiest since he took over as Bulls coach in December: the incident from Thursday’s Michigan State-Bradley game in the NCAA Tournament in which Spartans coach Tom Izzo controversially berated freshman Aaron Henry.
Two things to note: One, Boylen coached with Izzo at Michigan State and has a close relationship with the program and the man. Two, Boylen shares some of Izzo’s old-school mentality and went through his own criticism for his tough-love approach with Bulls players in his first week on the job.
“I think people need to understand [that] our job, especially at all levels, is to prepare the child for the road,” Boylen said. “[Izzo] didn’t take [Henry] out [of the game]. He coached him in that moment. Michigan State has high standards of play, and Tom Izzo’s job — and I think our job — is to push a guy to a place he can’t take himself. You go to Michigan State, you understand that — that’s why you go there.
“I’ve been there. I recruited those guys. That’s what they do there. That’s why they build pros. That’s why they get to the Final Four. That’s what you sign up for, and Coach Izzo is direct and honest. He puts time into his guys for permission to be real. He lets guys come back at him, and he goes at them. That’s the relationship — that’s what’s built. He’s not an absentee father, and guys love playing for him.
“I’m disappointed you can’t coach a guy hard these days without somebody making a big deal about it. It’s disappointing.”
Boylen’s first week as Bulls coach was all about coaching players hard. After a blowout loss to the Celtics in the second game of a back-to-back, he called for a practice on what is usually a day off, questioning the players’ toughness, deciding they weren’t in good enough condition and wanting them in the practice facility to start working on both fronts. Once word leaked that two players had tried to start a mutiny — which really had no legs to it — Boylen was judged in the court of public opinion.
Looking back on it now, especially in the wake of the Izzo incident, he feels it’s society just becoming oversensitive to what coaching is all about.
“Good players want to be coached,” Boylen said. “They want to be pushed — they know they have to be. In a moment, it’s emotional. This [NCAA Tournament] is a one-and-done thing. You can’t make mistakes. Tom Izzo is coaching [Henry] for that game and that moment, but he’s also coaching him the next time in that moment. That’s what it is.
“I’m disappointed that people are upset about it. Obviously, they haven’t been coached or they don’t understand the moment, or they don’t understand Michigan State, and they definitely don’t understand where Tom Izzo is coming from and what he’s done.
“It’s about winning. It’s about ownership of your actions and winning. And Tom Izzo is a leader. I’ve said this before: The basketball is the basketball. What wins in this league is dynamic leadership, and Izzo is a dynamic leader.”