Izzo On Winston: I'll Push Him As A Player, Hug Him As A Son

Cassius Winston's brother, Zachary, was hit by a train and killed Saturday

Tiki and Tierney
November 12, 2019 - 6:26 pm

After leading Michigan State to the Final Four last season, Spartans senior Cassius Winston was named a consensus preseason All-American. This was supposed to be the best season of his life – and it still could be, at least on the court.

Off the court, however, could be a different story. 

Tragedy struck the Winston family this past weekend, as Winston’s brother, Zachary, died Saturday night after he was hit by a train in Albion, Michigan.

“It’s been a sad time,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said on Tiki & Tierney. “His two brothers played at a small college about 45 minutes from here. They were up here all the time. Our players were mourning for Cassius, but they were also friends with Zachary. So it was a double damage. And yet, we hung in there.”

Hours after learning of his brother’s death, Winston played against Binghamton. He had 17 points and 11 assists in the 100-47 win Sunday.

“We’ve all been through some stuff,” Izzo said. “I kind of looked up at the heavens and asked Jud Heathcote why he didn’t give me the book on this one. It was just kind of uncharted territory for me. But it was difficult. He found out at 10, 12 in the morning, and by 7 o’clock that night, we were playing. I don’t know how he played. I told him he probably shouldn’t. But you know how athletes are. That’s the safe haven place for him. He had an unbelievable game.”

Izzo is trying to support Winston as best he can. So are Winston’s teammates.

“Thank God our whole team was around him,” Izzo said. “I think that’s the power of team. He is the leader of the team, and he was with the people he wanted to be around. His parents drove in about an hour-and-a-half later from Detroit. We all just sat for hours. What do you say? You don’t say much. You listen and try to help. But everybody grieves differently. It was a tough situation, but it was one that we’re trying to help him through. We will continue. You can play that one good game on adrenaline, and then all of a sudden the reality sets in. . . . The next couple of weeks, there will be some highs and lows. We’re just going to be there for him. We’re going to do our job. I told him I’m going to have to push you as a player and hug you as a son. That’s what I’m going to do.”

No. 3 Michigan State (1-1), which lost to No. 1 Kentucky (2-0) in its season-opener, plays at No. 12 Seton Hall (2-0) on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

“Its hard to understand something that you haven’t gone through yourself,” Izzo continued. “As they say, probably the most traumatic thing in life is losing a son or daughter. If you lose your parents as they get older, you can at least justify it. If you lose a spouse, you hope that they’ve lived a decent life. But when you lose someone who’s 20 years old, that’s hard on the parents. I just hope I don’t have to find that out, but I’m learning about it. It is difficult.”

Click below to listen to Izzo’s interview in its entirety, including his thoughts on pay-for-play.