Feb. 13, 2013
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
As the University of Michigan men's basketball team traveled to East Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday night (Feb. 12), they were greeted by a familiar face in the crowd. After changing his flight from the Netherlands so that he could arrive late last night, former three-year captain Zack Novak (2009-12) made his way to the Breslin Center, this time sitting behind the bench as a fan.
"I have been overseas all year since August," Novak commented. "So this is the first time I get to see them play in person, which I'm really excited about -- I'm pumped to be here."
After starting for the Wolverines all four years of his collegiate career, Novak is well aware of the hostile environment at Michigan State, though he has never let the heckling get to him. It was just two years ago that Novak made a career-high six three-point shots against the Spartans inside the Breslin Center. Not quick to forget that impressive performance, the students at Michigan State continued to give Novak a hard time still two years later.
"It's fun," Novak said. "As a player I loved coming to a place like this -- Michigan State especially -- they give it to you a lot. You just have to relish it -- if you were bad they wouldn't care enough, that's the bottom line."
Novak was joined by a handful of other Wolverine Faithful behind the Maize and Blue bench Tuesday night (Feb. 12), including head football coach Brady Hoke and former football coach Lloyd Carr, both of whom are well aware of the storied rivalry between the Wolverines and Spartans.
Despite coming off National Signing Day just last week, Brady Hoke as well as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and were in attendance with their families.
"The two schools are just over an hour away from each other, and both universities have a great deal of pride," Hoke remarked. "The two universities have been competing against each for a long time; it's a rivalry where you always want to come out on top. These kids represent Michigan and John Beilein and his staff and how hard they work. As a coach, we don't get to travel like this very often. It's great to be here."
Athletic director Dave Brandon was also in attendance Tuesday night (Feb. 12), and he commented on the support that the entire athletic department offers each other at Michigan. "I think it's pretty special that our football coaches just got done a few days ago with a rigorous recruiting period, and yet they wanted to be up here tonight to support their colleague John Beilein and his team," Brandon said. "It means a lot to our coaches and our players to come to the bench and see that those guys are here. They are here to support Michigan, which is what they do every day, and I am very pleased they're here."
In his time at Michigan as the head football coach from 1995-2007, Lloyd Carr experienced 28 games against the Spartans, all of which made him appreciate the rivalry even more.
"The Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry means everything," Carr commented. "When you talk about the competitive sport, it's really special. The thing you know is that every athlete on both teams is going to give everything they have, and that's why there are so many great games throughout the years."
"It's one of the greatest in-state rivalries in sport," Brandon remarked. "Every time we play Michigan State, regardless of the sport, we want to win. There is something extra special about it."
Despite falling to the Spartans on the road, the Wolverines lead the series history with a 94-76 record against the Green and White and will be anxious to improve upon that record on Sunday, March 3, when Michigan faces Michigan State at home in Ann Arbor.