March 22 (UPI) -- Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had former players coming to his defense after he received criticism for his fiery intercation with freshman Aaron Henry during the Spartans' first-round win in the NCAA tournament.
The exchange between Izzo and Henry went viral during Thursday's game. The Spartans head coach said he was surprised by the negative public reaction.
"To me it was ridiculous the way it blew up," Izzo told reporters Friday. "There's a 10-second soundbite and a two-year relationship. I just think people don't understand that. This coach relies on relationships with his players I think more than any coach in the country. That's an egotistic or selfish statement, self-proclaimed. But I think it's been earned and it's been talked about.
"You've got to appreciate there's a year and a half of recruiting. There's a year he's been here now. There's hours and hours and hours spent on, 'What do you want to accomplish? What do you need to do to accomplish that? What do you need to do to help our team win?' If you don't do those things, what do you think my job is?''
During the team's win over Bradley, Izzo became upset at Henry for what he thought was lackluster effort on defense. Izzo approached Henry on the court during a timeout and began to yell at the player, leading guard Cassius Winston to separate the two. While in the huddle, Izzo appeared to lunge at Henry, with Winston and Matt McQuaid restraining him.
Just an FYI. Being in those huddles for years. Cassius and Matt grabbed Iz so he could shut up and move on... after a while you’re just ready for him to draw up the play. Just giving perspective from someone who’s been apart of those huddles.— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 22, 2019
"Just an FYI, being in those huddles for years, Cassius and Matt grabbed Iz so he could shut up and move on," Green wrote on Twitter. "After awhile you're just ready for him to draw up the play. Just giving perspective from someone who's been apart of those huddles.
"And the reason he wouldn't stop is because Aaron Henry kept talking. However, what the world doesn't know is that Iz loves the kid who will challenge him back more than anything! So there's some insight for you all!!"
Green gave Henry some advice, telling the freshman to "keep standing up for yourself and don't back down." Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, who starred at Michigan State from 2012-14, also offered support to Izzo.
So coaches cant yell at players now? Lol Izz cares about his players more than half these other college coaches. 600+ wins for a reason. #GoGreen— Gary Harris (@thats_G_) March 22, 2019
"So coaches can't yell at players now?" Harris wrote. "Lol Izz cares about his players more than half these other college coaches. 600+ wins for a reason. #GoGreen."
The Spartans defeated No. 15 seed Bradley 76-65 on Thursday to reach the second round. Michigan State plays No. 10 Minnesota on Saturday.