Aaron Henry Makes It Clear: Nothing But Love For Izzo

They were laughing about the so-called incident shortly after it happened.

Will Burchfield
March 22, 2019 - 7:07 pm

© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

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Des Moines, Iowa -- Tom Izzo said his piece on Thursday afternoon, and he said it clearly. The public outrage regarding his tirade against Aaron Henry in Michigan State's win over Bradley was overblown and uninformed. 

This is how Izzo has always coached his players. And he's able to coach them like this because of the trust and respect that comes first. 

Henry spoke on the matter Thursday as well, but only for a few minutes, and before it had turned into a national controversy. At the time, he didn't think it was such a big deal. 

In fact, when first asked about the interaction, Henry had to ask, "Which one?" 

By Friday afternoon, the story had been disseminated, discussed and debated across the country. It was all a bit bizarre to Henry, who said he and Izzo actually laughed about it after the game. 

"It was just coaching," Henry said. "And people are blowing it up more than what it is." 

For the full 20 minutes that Michigan State's locker room was open to the media on Friday, Henry had at least a couple reporters in front of his stall. They picked and they prodded, trying to understand the inner dynamics of this player-coach relationship.

And that's where they were wrong from the start. 

"The relationship we have is bigger than just coach and player," Henry said. "It’s way deeper than that. I don’t want to compare it to father and son, but it’s that level of care, it’s that level of love he has for you, it’s that level of trust.

"I signed to his program for the next four years to make my dreams come true, and he’s definitely helping me toward that. So I wouldn’t want to fight him on that at all." 

Plus, Henry acknowledged. He had it coming. He was playing as poorly as he can remember, on the biggest stage of his career. Izzo had every right to get after him.

"There’s a few ways of taking it," Henry said. "Do you assume he's being disrespectful and say something back to him, or do you take the coaching for what it is and accept reality for what you’re doing? I was messing up in the game, he chewed me out for it.

"I deserved to be chewed out, just like I would be if I was at home and I did something I wasn’t supposed to do." 

These honest answers continued, the whole time Henry seeming mildly perplexed at the level of scrutiny. Across the locker room, Cassius Winston, who stepped between Izzo and Henry to defuse the situation, vouched for the side of Izzo that often goes unseen -- and in some cases overlooked. 

"People are just quick to forget," Winston said. "You think about last week, he was the first one on the floor crying when Kyle (Ahrens) went down. His passion and his emotion goes both ways, but it’s all out of love, it’s all out of care." 

Winston, like Henry and the rest of his teammates, was surprised at how quickly and how dramatically the story grew legs.

"A little bit," he said. "I guess it’s hard (to understand from the) outside looking in. ... He’s a Hall-of-Fame coach and he’s really good at what he does on and off the court. I think off the court is the biggest. He has that relationship where him yelling at us doesn’t take away from us.

"We know he wants the best for us, and the same way he yells at us he’ll cry for us. He’ll pull all the strings for us to see us do the best things that we can." 

With the Spartans preparing to face Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday, they've already moved on from what went down on Thursday. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn't have batted an eye. 

"We were kind of laughing about it," Winston said. "It was blown out of proportion, and I knew it had to be somebody who just doesn’t know what it’s about here, what we do here. We didn’t really trip about it. We're focused on getting better, because we got games to win."