It's a simple word, integrity, but it means so much. If a coach has it, players can feel comfortable taking their advice both on and off the field, and the fans can cheer for the team without worrying that, someday later, they'll regret it.
Tom Izzo has that integrity. And once again, today, I was reminded of why that sets him apart from so many of his so-called contemporaries.
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino had been fighting off rape allegations, made by someone who is now being charged with blackmailing the coach. However, in the course of proving her case false, it came out that Pitino (who is married with five kids) had an affair with her and then gave her $3,000 to have an abortion.
That got me thinking about something that, pardon the term, really grinds my gears.
Every year, we have to deal with a crap ton of mindless sportswriters hemming and hawing about who has the best college basketball coach. Is it Pitino, despite this indiscretion? John Calipari of Kentucky, despite the persistent rumors of recruiting improprieties? Bill Self, who has flipped off opposing student sections that annoyed him - including the Izzone?
The next ESPN or Sports Illustrated writer who pens one of these, I hope he or she takes a second to consider integrity. Consider the fact that Tom Izzo doesn't have that persistent cloud of scandal hanging over himself or his program. Consider that the biggest character flaw the guy has is either riding lazy players (Marquis Gray, Kelvin Torbert) or tiring himself out by giving too much time to too many charities.
Most of all, consider how much better it is to be a State fan, knowing you can tell your kids about what a great coach - and a great man - the old basketball coach is. I don't know about you, but I don't want a tainted coach, never mind how many wins they bring you.
They say one can't put a price on things like integrity. They're right, you can't. But perhaps one of these days, one of those big-shot journalists could lend it a bit more value.