Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo held his hands on his hips as the roar pummeled down on him from the stands. As IU jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the first half, Izzo was rarely animated. It was no different when IU redshirt junior center Joey Brunk made a lay-up to put IU up by three with under a minute to go, or when freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis made a crucial block on the game's final possession.
For they are sidelines where Izzo has so often treaded, he may as well have his footprints molded in the hardwood.
A full-throated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall poured on the noise in support of an IU team that went on to upset No. 11 Michigan State 67-63.
When Izzo and the Spartans come to Bloomington — no matter the coach for IU on the opposite end of the scorers table — the atmosphere is always different than an average game. On this Thursday night the line of students waiting to get in stretched all the way back to the parking lot and down the sidewalk to Wilkinson Hall in the misting rain, 90 minutes before tip-off.
“I tell my guys everyday that Michigan State is a somebody, people get up for you.” Izzo said. "It’s T-shirt night here. Those are normally saved for the weekends. Maybe it’s just for Michigan State.”
The t-shirts were crimson and read "Hickory", a reference both to the movie "Hoosiers" and the history of basketball in Indiana. Izzo has been witness to that history from the opposing sideline. He's been with Michigan State to see Bob Knight's firing and the rotaions of IU coaches and scandals that followed. He's seen IU's current coach, Archie Miller, beat him three straight times.
But no matter who was coaching opposite him, with a big game in Assembly Hall — and Michigan State is always that — the entirety of the arena rises to its feet with a thunderous applause different from all other nights.
And Izzo has come to get used to that.
But when Izzo was asked about Assembly Hall in his postgame press conference, he thought back to the man he coached against originally in Bloomington.
“I miss my man Bob Knight,” Izzo said.
In September at Big Ten Media Day, Izzo talked about his Assembly Hall memories and his favorite one with Knight. Knight was one of the first to call Izzo when he was hired as the Michigan State head coach in 1995. Izzo won his first Big Ten game against Knight and IU. After a win in Assembly Hall over Knight — of which Izzo doesn’t remember the year — and as Izzo’s team celebrated in the locker room, an IU manager knocked on the door.
“Coach Knight would like to see you in the war room,” Izzo said at Big Ten Media Day, recalling his memory.
“Oh jeez, here we go,” Izzo thought to himself, preparing for what he assumed to be the wrath of an angered Knight.
Instead Knight complimented him and told Izzo that his team had the talent to win it all. He gave Izzo a few things to watch out for, tips from a coach who was no stranger to championship-caliber teams.
Knight then slapped Izzo on his ass and told him to leave.
Izzo began his career at Michigan State as an assistant in the 1983-84 season. Between his years as an assistant and a head coach he’s played in Assembly Hall 33 times. He has a record of 11-22 overall and 7-15 as a head coach.
All these years later, Izzo doesn’t think much about playing in Assembly Hall. It’s nothing new for him anymore.
Izzo talked so quietly he could barely be heard, evident of his frustration, after his team was upset by IU on Thursday night in Bloomington — IU’s third straight win over the Michigan State and fifth straight win over a ranked team at home. For him it wasn’t Assembly Hall that led to the turnovers, missed lay-ups and free throws that helped IU add another resume boosting win.
“It really doesn’t matter what I do, I’ve got a lot of young guys that have never played in this building, and the ones that have have never been on the floor,” Izzo said. “I’ve got to do a better job of coaching us. It’s not the building. The building is great. I love it here.”