IZZO IS HOARSE, OF COURSE, OF COURSE

Good morning.

I am Tom Izzo’s v…eeeek!

A-hem.

I am Tom Izzo’s voice. Yes, I squeak. I warble. I sound like a man constantly gargling. Now and then, I have been known to disappear altoget…

….

A-hem.

I am Tom Izzo’s voice. I have been with him since birth. No, I was not always the shaky, scratchy, Godfather-sounding screak you have come to know.

Once I was sweet and vibrant. When Tom was growing up in Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I used to holler joyfully with other kids. I used to call for the ball. Like this:

“Hey, gimme the b…eeeek!”

A-hem.

In college, at Northern Michigan, when Tom was rooming with Steve Mariucci, the future NFL coach, I used to squawk all night. I’d talk about basketball. I’d talk about girls.

And in the morning, I’d bounce right back. A good strong voice. I coulda been somebody. A singer, maybe? Opera? Like this:

O sole mio…eeeek!

A-hem.

And then Tom started coaching.

And I was doomed. If only Jud had stuck around …

A coach does nothing more frequently than yell. He yells in practice, he yells during games, he yells on the bus. If I had a nickel for every time I had to go: “Hey! Hey! HEY! HEEEYYYY!”

I mean, really.

It doesn’t help that Tom is so … passionate. From the time he was an assistant under Jud Heathcote, he was hollering. “Go here! Stand there! Set this pick!” And the phone? As a recruiter, he was on the phone forever. It’s a good thing I was a strong tenor. That way, by the last call of the night, I only sounded like a tired Al Pacino. Otherwise, I would have been Barry White.

And once Tom got the head coach’s whistle at Michigan State, well, forget it. We talked so much that day, I sounded like:

Guess wha–! I g– the j–!

“Huh?” people said.

From then on, honestly, there hasn’t been one day I’ve sounded good. I snap, I crackle, I pop. I screech. I get all phlegmish. Not Flemish. That’s another language. Although sometimes I sound like I’m speaking another language.

And when it gets really bad?

I become The Hoarse Whisperer. So many games, so many Final Fours

This, over the years, has come after double-overtime games, tournament victories or yelling at Zach Randolph. By the end of all that, I sound like a guy ordering a mafia hit.

Don’t blame me. Did you ever try screaming over a marching band? Did you ever try convincing a referee he was blind? I mean, you can’t chirp like a bird in this job.

When players forget their assignments, when they don’t get back on defense, when they take a knucklehead shot, it makes me so ROARING MAD I WANNA S-

I wanna sc…screeeek! … A-hem.

And the bigger the stage, it seems, the more the yelling. And Michigan State has been to five Final Fours now under Tom. Five. That’s a lot of strain on the nodules. No wonder I sound like I’m talking underwater.

So I thought I’d clear that up this morning, since you’ll be hearing plenty of me in the next 36 hours. I may sound gruff, throaty or as squeaky as an eighth-grader.

But I just want to add that while I, Tom’s voice, may be worn, spent, creaky and exhausted, remember: a voice follows a heart. And my guy has a big heart. You don’t get this raspy by not caring. You don’t get this raw by not putting everything you have on that floor, every night. And I …

I’m getting choked up here.

A-hem.

Anyone got a lozenge?

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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