Izzo on Lucas, in full
MSU has two more captains, Draymond Green and Isaiah Dahlman, a decision Tom Izzo made a couple days ago. Meanwhile, junior captain Kalin Lucas is in timeout as of Tuesday afternoon.
Here's everything Izzo said Tuesday on the Lucas situation (media questions paraphrased in some cases of excessive verbal fumbling):
Is there some news regarding Kalin Lucas?
“Not really news, it’s just he’s not here right now, not practicing with us. I just decided there were some leadership issues on this team that I don’t think people are living up to what I need done. Nothing bigger than that, and I just told him he can take off practice and think about it. And what I do tomorrow, I have no idea yet.
“But we’re not performing and we’re not doing the things we need to do. And I always say that, I said it to you guys the first week: Distractions cause problems. (Lack of) leadership causes problems. (Lack of) chemistry causes problems. And if he wants to assume the position of being the best player and this and that, he’s got to assume the position of taking some leadership responsibilities. And I don’t think he’s done that, so that’s where I’m at with it.”
So there’s no injury or academic issue?
“No. Not drunk driving or anything, no.”
To clarify, you asked him to take the day off?
“Well I didn’t ask him anything, I told him what he was gonna do. And he’s taking the day off and maybe more than one day.”
Would you say he’s suspended?
“No, I wouldn’t use that term. I mean I wouldn’t, I guess you could. He’s got to figure out if he wants to be the member of this team that does what we need him to do.”
How did he take it?
“I mean, he said OK and walked away. He didn’t take it bad, he didn’t take it good, he didn’t take it either way.”
Is it on the floor stuff or off the floor stuff?
“I’d say everything. You know, a leader has got to lead in the locker room, in hotels, in the streets, on the floor, on the bench. I just think there’s a lot of things that we need him to be … I don’t think right now his focus is on our team. I think this is one of the things that happens often. People start focusing on things that are beyond here, and then you start listening to people and then you have problems, and I’m just trying to nip those in the bud.”
Did you struggle with this decision?
“I don’t have many kids miss a practice, so I always struggle with decisions, but one thing I’ve never done –- contrary to my wearing my emotions on my sleeve –- I never make a decision that I haven’t thought about, talked about, got advice on. And never is it an off-the-wall decision.”
Was this today during practice?
“No, it was before practice. It was weeks, months. I haven’t been happy, I’ve been realistic with you guys and I said sometimes, you know, as far as his play, I think other guys have got to do a better job. But as far as his leadership, he’s got to do a better job. So I don’t think I’ve been any different the whole year. It’s just that drastic things have to happen if people are gonna make changes.”
When exactly did the conversation take place?
“It was today. It’s been, I’ve been talking to him about things like this for three months, whenever school started. This is no … like I said, I know it’s hard for you guys, it’s not for me. It’s what happens in sports. A coach’s job is to help kids do the things they don’t want to do, to become who they want to be. And that’s my job.”
Kalin said after the Texas game that some of the guys weren’t listening to you.
“Did he say that in the mirror, or was he saying it to you?”
He said it to me, he was talking about other guys. What did you think about those comments?
“That didn’t bother me. You know, you’ve got to always remember that I’ve said since I came here, if I can give it, I’ve got to take it. As long as you bring the goods. And I think a lot of that goes back to Travis Walton -- and everybody acted like it was a bigger deal than it was, believe me, it wasn’t a big deal and it wasn’t that much ever said –- but you know, Ray was upset in the last game. And he had some right to be upset. And I just think this team isn’t where it needs to be, I think everybody would agree with that. I think you can see it’s not where it needs to be and so I’m trying to get it where it needs to be. And maybe it’s picking on (Lucas), but you don’t pick on your worst players, you pick on your best players.”
You’re not gonna want us to blow this up, but would you agree this is a fairly drastic step?
“Any time I have a kid miss a practice, I’d say that’s a drastic step because I don’t have to do that very often. But sometimes, too, you want guys to just sit down and think about what’s going on and what they’re doing. And it always takes something to change that is just not another day. This is a new time of year, we’ve got to get ready for the season. OK, we’ve gone through some ups and downs. I don’t think we’ve played great, but I don’t think we’ve been awful. I still think we played a very good schedule. But guys have got to grow up. It’s all of us that cause the problems. I mean, we’re all telling everybody that they’re ready to go pro, that they’re ready to do this, we all are. Sometimes me, too. I’ll take some of the blame in all that. But I’ve spent enough time trying to focus in on what he needs to do, and I just think he’s got to figure it out -- what he needs to do for him to be successful and us to be successful. Him to be successful, us to be successful.”
Do you think this team right now is a collection of individuals?
“No, not at all, not at all. I think this team will be just fine.”
If ever a team wasn’t listening, I’m reading you think that’s part of the captain’s responsibility?
“Yeah, and I don’t think the team’s not listening. I think the best players have to play well. Otherwise you start looking for other players to play well, that maybe can’t give you the same things. Kalin Lucas is a very good player that has a lot to give, and a lot to give in a lot of ways. And with a rank comes a responsibility. It’s pretty simple. I think all of us want rank. We want to be ranked up there. Not many of us want the responsibility. Well, like I said, it’s part of the job.”
He may not play tomorrow?
“He may not.”
Will you call Travis Walton or others to get a hold of Kalin?
“Well you can be guaranteed, before I do anything, I’ll have called every one of my guys, from Magic Johnson to Travis Walton. I operate that way on every other kid. I mean, there’s always issues, there’s always things. I mean, you’re right, I don’t want you to make it bigger than it is. You’re right, I think it is news that a kid is not in practice. All I can do is what I can do to help the program, the team and the individual. And believe me, that’s all I’m trying to do.”
Did you talk to his dad?
“Not this time, I have talked to his dad a lot of times. But not this time, no. Like I said, if the media wasn’t here today, maybe by tomorrow it’d be solved. But then again, I didn’t hide it either by having some phony practice just because you guys were here. … It’s a normal thing that happens on a lot of teams, and I’m just trying to make sure, for his sake –- and I think that’s an important thing to remember here, it’s for his sake and our sake. Because I do expect a lot out of him and I do demand a lot out of him, and I do need a lot out of him. He has a responsibility and that’s the only thing there is to it.”
Is it accurate to say things came to a head today?
“No, nothing happened today, in fact he had a pretty good practice yesterday. I’ve just been thinking, you know, you get caught in these jobs, you’re always questioning, ‘Is Day-Day playing well enough? Is this guy playing well enough? Is that guy playing well enough?’ And I just decided that there’s not enough responsibility being taken by the guy that needs to take it. And that’s what I told him. I want to see if he can sit down, think about it and figure (it) out. He might come to me this afternoon and say, ‘Yeah, you know, I haven’t done this, I haven’t done this, I haven’t done this.’ And I’d say, ‘Great, let’s work that out.’ And he might think I’m wrong, and we’ll try to work that out. But it’s not –- you’re making me blush to make me think I’m telling you anything different. It’s just the way it is. It’s, I can see where it’s news, but it’s not a big deal to me. I’ve been through it a million times.”
Can you think back to specific guys with whom you’ve been through this?
“Oh, yeah, Cleaves sat out of a practice. Marcus Taylor sat out of practices. Alan Anderson, I mean, yeah, it’s happened with other guys. But I think that, too, I wouldn’t be talking about it if I didn’t think it was an issue that has to be solved. And when I say solved, I mean we need to get … I think more than anybody, I know how good Kalin Lucas can be. I don’t think he’s doing the things to make him that player. So as dumb as this sounds, if you think it’s my ego, it’s not. If you think it’s strictly my program, it’s not. When you have a player that’s special –- and I have a couple players that are special, and not doing the things they need to do to become special –- then it’s my job to not tell them what they want to hear, tell them what they need to hear. And that’s a Jud line. It’s just sad it comes to the point where you’ve got to do more drastic things. But everybody responds different to everything…”
Reading between the lines, there’s been speculation that Kalin is looking to the NBA after this year…
“I hope he is.”
But could that be part of the distraction?
“I think that could be part of it. That’s not what he said to me, or that’s not really what I said to him. But I think that’s definitely what happens. If you look around the country, whenever guys have NBA chances –- not one-and-done definites, I’m talking about opportunities –- it becomes a distraction. That’s why I said … this should be really easy for you, really, because I gave you this the first day we met. I gave you leadership, chemistry and distractions as No. 1 on my list. I haven’t changed it. A couple press conferences, I reiterated it. I don’t know if you guys … I wish you would take to that as much as you’re taking to this. Because I don’t think anybody really saw that or looked at it or wondered. But we miss Walton a lot. We miss Suton a lot. We have players that I think can do those jobs. My job is to make sure that I get them to do those jobs, if I think they have the ability. So in a lot of ways, it’s more complimentary to Kalin than insulting. I think he has the ability to do something he ain’t doing.”
You have other guys like a Draymond Green who has done more. Is it a problem trying to find who should be talking when?
“No, no, in fact, the only other thing I want to announce today is we’ve added two captains. Coach’s choice. We’ve added two captains. Total positive, this happened two days ago. Total positive. I decided Draymond Green, because he’s not afraid to hear his voice. And I’ve decided Isaiah Dahlman, because in meetings and everything, he has that chemistry factor that he understands and likes everybody. And I realize more than anything in my coaching career how valuable a kid like that is.”
So you have four captains or three captains?
Kalin’s still a captain?
“Yep, still a captain.”
Have you ever had four captains?
“Yep, once I have. And this wasn’t after today, this was three days ago, two days ago, and it was completely for all the right reasons. It wasn’t something we voted on this time. I felt it was something that we needed. And maybe more importantly, why didn’t I do it early? Because I think it was earned. And I like that.”
How did Kalin take the addition of the new captains?
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no. They were all fine with that. … There’s nobody upset about that, I explained I’m trying to take some pressure off some guys, because if they can’t handle things I’m gonna take some pressure off them. But really, this thing has nothing to do with (the Lucas) thing. I mean it probably does in the big picture because guys have got to do their job. But I think this does nothing but help us, honestly.”
Lucas' father, Kenneth, had not yet discussed the situation with his son or Izzo when I reached him, but he did have this to say: "Kalin does need to step up and be a little more mature and be able to handle things, and realize coach Izzo is in charge."
More on this in Wednesday's LSJ.
P.S. Sorry about the confusion on the first post on this topic. When I said Izzo made it clear he didn't "ask" Lucas to sit, that was to illustrate that he "told" him to sit. But it was written strangely. My bad, it was a rushed entry from the driver's seat of my car (parked, for the record).