DETROIT -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had a strong message Sunday for any fan who thinks this year's Spartans team failed to live up to its potential.
"You know what I would say? Find another team," Izzo said. "... I would say that I have never, ever been prouder of a team than I am this team."
Izzo said the Spartans (30-5) had a bad shooting day in their 55-53 upset loss to No. 11 seed Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday evening. He said he was motivated to bring Michigan State as a basketball team and a university back to a place of respect and prestige after a tumultuous season filled with off-the-court controversy and questions.
"I don't plan on going anywhere," Izzo, 63, said when a reporter asked if this season could drive him to retire. "I've got a job to do. I've never run from anything in my life. Nothing. I don't plan on starting now. So, I'll be here. I took too many bullets this year not to be here. So I'll be here, and we'll be back knocking on the door to win a championship. I'm going to make damn sure of that, and I'm going to get the help of my people, my team and my support. I hope I do a better job of handling all the other things."Spartans coach Tom Izzo said the past several months have been among the most trying times of his Michigan State career, but also said, "I've never run from anything in my life. Nothing. I don't plan on starting now." Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire
Izzo said his pride in this year's roster comes, in part, from the way they've handled the controversy-filled season. An Outside The Lines report published in late-January called into question how Izzo and others within the athletic department and the university have responded to allegations of sexual assault and violence against women in the past. He has declined to answer questions about the report during the past six weeks, saying only that he's comfortable that he handled those situations properly.
Izzo also drew some criticism for his remarks about former university president Lou Anna Simon during a sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State doctor who is serving at least 99 years in prison for sexual abuse and child pornography crimes.
In February, assistant coach Dwayne Stephens and star sophomore Miles Bridges were named in a Yahoo! report that detailed documents uncovered during the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball. A brief investigation conducted by Michigan State found that one of Bridges' family members had violated NCAA rules by accepting a meal with a professional agent. Bridges paid a $40 fine as restitution and did not miss any games for the Spartans.
Izzo said Michigan State has things it needs to fix and that he hopes to be part of the solution with those things. He said the past several months have been among the most trying times of his lengthy career in East Lansing.
"Nobody -- not my wife, not my kids, not my team -- nobody has any idea what it's been like," Izzo said. "I'm going to find a way to self-motivate and deal with and make better this university that I've given over half my life to. Understand that everything is not perfect anywhere. Not in your house, not in my house. Not in your job, not in my job. All I can do is try my hardest to make it better. If somebody would give me a chance to bring Michigan State back, I can't think of anything I'd rather do.
"It's been punched and kicked. Some of it was for mistakes that were rightfully so. Some of it was not rightfully so. I'm going to sit down with some people, and I'm going to be hopefully part of the solution, not part of the problem. Hopefully, hopefully, they'll be a lot of people even standing here that will eat their words."
Izzo said that his vision of bringing Michigan State back means that he wants the university to have "as much honor and prestige as it can have, because I think it's what this university deserves."