Friday, July 10, 2009

An Izzo Elevator Encounter

As it turns out, Tom Izzo apparently felt as badly about his Michigan State Spartans knocking my Louisville Cardinals from the Final Four chase as I did. At least that’s what he told me in the elevator of Cleveland’s Renaissance Hotel.

I was in town to promote the National Senior Games. He was in town to attend the LeBron James King City Classic basketball tournament, featuring the best high school players in the nation.
As fate would have it, we ended up on the same elevator at the same time, along with Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber.

The last time I saw Izzo was at a distance. He was patrolling the sidelines in Indianapolis as his underdog Spartans easily dismantled my beloved Louisville Cardinals, depriving me of the joy of a Final Four appearance. This time, the personal space between us was much more intimate. We were in a cramped elevator instead of the Lucas Oil Stadium. Because of the man next to me, I would never see T-Will in a Louisville uniform again. I couldn’t possibly let the moment pass without letting him know just exactly how I felt.

“Coach,” I started. “Why did you have to beat my Cardinals like that?”

“Well,” he replied sheepishly. “Um, I’m sorry about that.”

Witnessing this, Weber chimed in instantly with “I’m not!”

Apparently that Big Ten blood runs pretty thick.

Regardless, I left the elevator feeling better, knowing Izzo didn’t really want to beat the Cardinals like that. And at least he didn’t take the UK job.

There’s one postscript to this story. On my return trip, I ended up right behind West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins in the airport security line. Huggins is a hated Louisville rival way from way back in his days at Cincinnati. I thought about giving him the business too, but held my tongue. After all, we beat West Virginia.

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