Listen: Tom Izzo Remembering Adreian Payne Reminds You That Michigan State Has One Of The Last Good Guys Left In College Coaching
(Click the play button in the media player above to hear Tom Izzo's remarks on Adreian Payne from May 13.)
Tom Izzo was devastated early Monday morning when he learned his former player Adreian Payne had been killed.
Payne, who played for Izzo at Michigan State from 2010-2011 to 2013-2014, was murdered Monday morning in Orlando, Florida. His alleged shooter has been charged with murder.
Payne was just 31 years old.
"It was a tear-jerking 6:45 a.m. phone call," Izzo said, "because I know what he's been through. His mother died in his arms when he was 13 of an asthma attack. His grandmother died when he was a freshman here."
Izzo made the remarks live, in-person Friday at David "Mad Dog" DeMarco's final broadcast for The Game 730 AM, held at One North Kitchen and Bar in Delta Township.
His emotions were raw and palpable.
"It was just a senseless act," Izzo said, clearly troubled by the way Payne's life was ended. "I'm so sick of the gun violence. I'm so sick of the things that we go through."
Still grieving his former player, Izzo wiped away tears and choked up while on the air.
"I don't like Adreian Payne — I love Adreian Payne," he said, noting that he plans to visit with Payne's family next week.
It was a heartbreaking scene to witness in person — Izzo, known for his fire and intensity on the hardcourt, reduced to tears and rendered voiceless at times by the untimely passing of a young man he had coached and continued to mentor.
But somehow it was also an inspiring, and even refreshing, thing to see. At a time when college coaches are leaving their players seemingly overnight for bigger and bigger bags of cash, here was a man widely considered among the best at what he does who was taking time out of his PTO-less schedule (thanks to recruiting) to remember a man who last scored a basket for him over eight years ago.
In an era where some college basketball coaches have gone to jail for the things they've done on the job, here was Michigan State's openly grieving a former player in public (at a live-on-location sports radio show, no less).
It was just the latest reminder that the Spartans have one of if not the last of a dying breed: a college coach who still believes in relationships and principles. Despite all the success —a national championship, more Final Fours than most programs, millions of dollars, and multiple overtures made by interested NBA teams — Izzo has never abandoned the people-first values he learned growing up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
You can hear Izzo's remarks on Payne from Friday's Mad Dog Show in the media player above.