Michigan State’s Tom Izzo backs COVID-19 protocols, says he has ‘no clue’ how he contracted virus


Tom Izzo began with an apology.

It was not for contracting the coronavirus, which was detected with an antigen test Monday morning and confirmed with a PCR test later. It was for taking up the time of reporters who had to cover this significant story. Izzo has been Michigan State’s head men’s basketball coach since 1996 and has an NCAA championship and eight Final Four appearances. He has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Izzo, 65, was well enough to conduct a news conference Monday afternoon via Zoom. He said he has been “beating my brains out trying to figure out where and how” he came down with COVID-19.

“I think I’ve been as diligent as anybody, which just goes to show — and even tells you more — how serious the virus is,” Izzo said. “I know for a fact that I wasn’t at any big parties, didn’t visit any frat houses or sororities. I’ve just been sitting in my own house and going to work.”

Izzo has been an advocate for wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the virus and said he would wear an apron if that would help.

“I think we have to understand it is serious, and it’s invisible,” Izzo said. “This isn’t to say that the protocols don’t work, either. Where I got it, I have no clue. I just can’t figure it out. Maybe I never will be able to. But I would say to you: Don’t let up for a second. You’ve just got to stick to the protocols and hope for the best.”

Izzo said he will isolate at home for eight to 10 days. He said he feels well enough to return to work “if it was legal.” He plans to work at home, watching film and practice sessions live streamed from the Berkowitz Basketball Complex. He will be in contact with his staff, including longtime assistant D.J. Stephens, who will act as head coach in Izzo’s absence.

“My team’s in great hands,” Izzo said.

The 2019-20 Spartans shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Wisconsin and Maryland but lost stars Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman following the season. Led by wings Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford and a deep group of young talent, the Spartans were ranked No. 13 in the first Associated Press poll.

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Izzo said trying to stage a college basketball season through a pandemic “is going to be a headache,” but when asked if the 2020-21 season would be legitimate given the truncated schedule and potential for disruption, he insisted it would be

“We’re going through a tough time,” Izzo said. “I do agree, too, that we can’t quit living. So where’s the happy medium?

“Do I think it’s worth it? Yes.”

Players and coaches at Michigan State have been tested regularly, and Izzo said he tested negative as recently as Sunday. He said he had a cough and some chills on Saturday but had no fever. He has been working out regularly on his Peloton bike and didn’t feel poorly enough over the weekend to prevent another couple sessions. He said he felt better going into the office early Monday, but that was when he received the positive test result.

“If I could do a favor to all the Spartans out there: Take care of yourself. Do what you can do. Control what you can control,” Izzo said. “It’s the same thing I told my team. If you control everything and things don’t work out, you can live with it. I’m going to live with it. I’m going to get better.”


Steven Gregory