OAKLAND – Tom Izzo told Draymond Green to shut up.
This happened in a meeting halfway through Green’s freshman season at Michigan State. Legendary head coach Tom Izzo had asked his basketball team a question, and he wasn’t asking Green.
“Coach Izzo would direct his questions to the older guys, the guys who had been there,” said Green the other day after a Warriors practice, “and tell the freshman not to say anything. I wasn’t hardheaded, but I knew I had some things I could say that would help the team.
“So when we were in a meeting one day, he asked a question and I answered it. He gave me the craziest look and then walked away. And then he looked back at me. And then he walked away again. And he then looked at me again.”
Green ducked his head, turned it to the side and squinted, giving the buffalo eye, the face Izzo made.
“I guess Coach Izzo didn’t expect it out of a freshman. He said, ‘Shut up, you’re a punk freshman.’ But the rest of that meeting – this was a long meeting – he directed his questions to me.”
Still a freshman bench player, Green became a leader of a premier college basketball program. He graduated four years later as Michigan State’s all-time leading rebounder. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year his senior season, and one of three players ever to record two triple-doubles in the NCAA tournament.
Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson were the other two.
Green was not a first-round draft pick – not tall enough to be an NBA power forward, it was said, not a good enough shooter to be an NBA small forward. The Warriors drafted him in the second round, partially for his leadership. He delivered. Even his rookie season, he was one of the outspoken Warriors in a locker room that included Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut and Jarrett Jack.
“He’s honest and he holds everybody accountable whether you’re the best player or the worst player,” Mark Jackson said a few minutes before I met with Green. “I think the most important thing is, if you’re going to talk, you’ve got to make sure that the congregation believes that you really care, care about winning. He has proven that.”