Izzo bans cell phones during Michigan State's tourney run
INDIANAPOLIS -- When head coach Tom Izzo rides the Michigan State team bus to Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday before the Spartans' regional semifinal against Duke, the sound of his players talking and interacting with each other will bring a smile to his face.
Since the start of March Madness, fans have been eager to consume tweets, photos, videos -- anything -- to feel more a part of their team’s journey to the Final Four.
But don’t expect to hear anything from inside Michigan State's team walls. Izzo has barred his players from using their cell phones during bus trips and other team meetings and activities.
“It’s intravenous,” Izzo said. "I have to unplug them from their veins. When they come down to meetings, when they’re in the bus, that’s when I really enjoy it.
“I love hearing a little noise in my bus. I’m not a big guy for it being completely quiet. It’s nice to hear guys talking instead of tapping on their phones. I hate that noise, to be honest with you.”
According to a study done by Fieldhouse Media that surveyed nearly 300 student-athletes' use of social media, almost 72 percent have a Twitter account and 97.4 percent use it daily.
Not Izzo’s team. Not now. Not with an NCAA championship on the line.
Donning a Michigan State helmet with MSU’s Spartan on top, Mark Brandt, a Flint, Mich., native, watched the Spartans' open practice Thursday afternoon. He said the cell phone policy makes sense.
“Distractions, you know, you have to keep them away,” Brandt said. “Especially with the tweeting that goes on.”
Michigan State senior center Derrick Nix said his team was a little shocked and confused with Izzo’s cell phone policy at first, but sees the way it has built better team chemistry.
“At first we were like, ‘What?’ ” Nix said. “But it’s a good team-builder, and it helps our team a lot because we just talk more and communicate more than just sitting on your phone and listening to music.”
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and select players look ahead to the Sweet 16 matchup versus Michigan State.
While numerous comparisons have been made between Izzo and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s recruitment, coaching styles and career success, the coaches have developed different philosophies on the cell phone issue.
While Krzyzewski maintains his admiration of Izzo and the way he’s built the MSU program in the past 18 years, he doesn’t see the point in taking away his players’ phones. Krzyzewski talks to his players about being focused and being selfish about the team’s goal of winning a championship.
“For the year,” Krzyzewski said, “I’d say, ‘It’s like you have your own bus, and you drive your bus and you have friends and family on it. During this time of the year more people want to get on the bus; in fact, sometimes they want a series of buses ... try to not let other people on your bus at this time. Try to do things like you normally do and remember the responsibilities you have with those cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, the Instagram and all that stuff.’ ”
Duke senior forward Mason Plumlee echoed Krzyzewski about the importance of the team’s focus during the tournament. With four national championships, 12 national coach of the year honors and 927 career victories -- the most in NCAA history -- Krzyzewski must know what he's talking about.
“I think we’re always focused at this point in the season,” Plumlee said. “This is really the only important thing going on. Even kind of set school on the back burner and focus on what you have to do to win.”
Izzo emphasized that the communications ban is temporary. “ It just means from our meetings, our bus rides to places like this,” he said. “If I took the phones away the whole time, my guys would die.”
Michigan State and Duke will meet for the eighth time since Izzo and Krzyzewski have been at the helm of their respective teams. Izzo has a record of 1-6 against Krzyzewski, but they have split two NCAA tournament games. In 2005, as a fifth seed, Michigan State beat top-seeded Duke 78-68 in a regional semifinal on the way to the Final Four.