With his defense lagging and a borderline call going against the Spartans, Tom Izzo had seen enough.
The Michigan State head coach took out his frustrations out on a whiteboard Friday as the Spartans pulled away for a 72-62 win over USC in the opening round of NCAA men's tournament play.
Izzo's emotions built up over a sequence midway through the second half. With 12:55 remaining and the Spartans leading, 49-42, officials whistled Michigan State forward Malik Hall for a charge. The call was marginal at best. USC's Boogie Ellis fell to the floor with little resistance as Hall posted him up on the wing.
Izzo was furious and gave officials an earful. USC responded with a dunk on the other end.
Moments later, the Michigan State defense failed to get into position in transition, and USC's Reese Dixon-Waters hit a wide open 3-pointer to cut the Trojan deficit to 51-47. At the next TV timeout, Izzo let his whiteboard have it.
After consulting with officials — presumably over the charge call — Izzo joined the Michigan State huddle and snapped his whiteboard in half over his knee.
"We are down one whiteboard"— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 17, 2023
Tim Izzo snapped it in half with ease 😳 pic.twitter.com/2vnLt6eVO4
The moment appeared to serve a dual purpose — releasing his frustrations and letting his players know that he was frustrated. He broke the board in full view of his team.
Michigan State's defense held USC to two points over the next 5:18 out of the break, and the Spartans went on to a 10-point win. After the game, Izzo joked about the whiteboard break with CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl and color analyst Steve Lappas, a former coach at Manhattan, Villanova and UMass.
"These are harder to break than those old cardboard ones that Lappas had." 😂 pic.twitter.com/DR5rw69naj— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 17, 2023
"These are harder to break than those old cardboard ones that Lappas had," Izzo told Erdahl. "He wouldn't have been strong enough to break this. ...
"It's just part of the fun. I'm glad you're making fun of me. I love it. ... You know what? We're gonna coach guys. We're gonna do what we do. ... We're gonna be hard on them, because defense wins games."
Breaking whiteboards and clipboards appears to be part of Izzo's repertoire. He's told a story on multiple occasions about a failed effort to break a clipboard while coaching Draymond Green, who played at Michigan State from 2008-12. In this instance, Izzo admits that Green was grating on his nerves during a close game.
"I listened to him for a little bit and I finally told him to be quiet," Izzo told the San Jose Mercury News in September for a piece about his relationship with the Golden State Warriors forward. "Of course he didn't."
Izzo said that he responded by attempting to break his clipboard over his knee. When a failed second effort left the clipboard intact, that's when Green chimed in — again, per Izzo.
"When I did it the second time, Draymond gives me the, 'Hey coach, you better hit the weight room," Izzo said. "Everybody started laughing, and it kind of broke the ice, and we went on and won big."
In these two instances, Izzo's clipboard routine appeared to work. It didn't hurt in terms of the final outcome, at least. Will we see it again this March? Izzo's next chance comes on Sunday in a second-round matchup against the winner of Marquette-Vermont.