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Last season, in the midst of a magical run that carried the Spartans to nearby Detroit for the Final Four, senior Travis Walton talked about what it was like to bear the brunt of Izzo's tough love for four years.
"He probably wants more for me than I want for myself," Walton said finally. "I love him. I'm pretty sure he loves me the same."
That much is affirmed to every one of his charges nearly every season, when Izzo's name is mentioned for vacant major college or NBA coaching jobs, and he says one more time he isn't going anywhere.
Soon after Izzo settled into mentor Jud Heathcote's office on the MSU campus 15 years ago, it became clear he was that rare talent who could take any team to just about every Final Four. That he committed to building a program that would rival North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky without wandering too far from home is a lesson in loyalty that's impossible to miss.
As the Spartans were getting blown out of last year's championship game by eventual winner North Carolina, Izzo began wondering what he was going to say to his charges afterward. He started working on his speech right about the time the Tar Heels' Wayne Ellington drained a jump shot in front of his bench.
"I said, 'Damn, we're in trouble,'" Izzo said. "So I had a long time to think about what I wanted to say. That was three minutes into the game, and I had 37 minutes to think about it -- and the whole postgame, too.
"I wanted to say something good and I was so proud of those guys and yet I felt so bad that we didn't give them a game. That's when Draymond raised his hand."
Green picked up the story from there.
"I said, 'A year ago, North Carolina was in the same position we were, and they came back," he recalled. "'Why can't we do the same thing?'"
Don't bet against these Spartans doing exactly that.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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