Mateen Cleaves, A Kid From Flint

Behind every triumph and heartbreak in the NCAA tournament, there’s a story. The Players’ Tribune presents Tales of Madness, a series of first-person accounts from iconic basketball players recalling their most memorable tournament experiences. In this installment, Mateen Cleaves remembers the National Championship Game against Florida in 2000, and how a team of seniors was shaped by a young coach named Tom Izzo.

*MSU v Florida Cleaves

I was just trying to find Coach Izzo.

On the court, it was madness. Lights flashing and music blasting. Cameras were everywhere. “One Shining Moment” was just starting to play on the Jumbotron. Someone handed me a brand new white hat that read: Michigan State 2000 National Champions. I was trying to hold back tears. I needed to find Coach Izzo.

Weaving through the crowd, I found him. We shared a big bear hug. Together, we looked up and watched “One Shining Moment.” It was very emotional for me. I tell people all the time — that was the first time in my life I cried tears of joy. That was just a magical moment. Something I will never forget.

To understand the type of emotion I was feeling in that moment, you have to go back to the living room of my parents’ house at 512 Gray St. in Flint, Michigan. I was an 18-year-old kid sitting at the dinner table with a young coach with a funny name. Coach Izzo had come to recruit me. He was a first-year coach with the confidence of a veteran.

He looked right at me and my parents, and said, “If you come to Michigan State, we’ll win a national championship by the time you leave.”

Hold up. That sounded good and all, but I didn’t know how true that could be. This was the same year the Spartans had just finished sixth in the Big Ten and lost in the second round of the NIT. You know, at the time Michigan State wasn’t getting McDonald’s All-Americans every year. The ‘90s had been the University of Michigan’s basketball decade. Now this first-year coach was in my house guaranteeing a national championship?

But that’s the thing about Coach Izzo — there’s something about him that makes you want to be part of what he’s doing. Going to MSU to play for him turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life.

Every player who’s ever played for Coach Izzo knows that he cares about them. You might see him getting into a guy’s face or challenging a player, but there’s a lot that people don’t see. Throughout the course my career, I probably sat in his office a hundred times talking about how my mom and dad were doing, how are classes were going, how life was going — even joking or talking about TV shows … things that have nothing to do with basketball. He did that with everyone. He made the effort to know you as an individual. He cared about us as people, not just basketball players.

And I think that’s why his players would go out and run through a brick wall for him.

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How The Killing Of A Mentally Ill Man In Milwaukee Triggered The Starbucks ‘Race Together’ Initiative

“I like to think that at every opportunity I’ve ever been threatened with resistance, it’s been met with resistance.” —Tupac

Starbucks Holds Annual Shareholders Meeting
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Last month, Starbucks’s and USA Today’s“Race Together” initiative launched with the article “Why Race Together? Because Diversity Matters.” It begins:

Racial diversity is the story of America, our triumphs as well as our faults. Yet racial inequality is not a topic we readily discuss. It’s time to start. Conversation has the power to change hearts and minds.​ At Starbucks, we’ve seen this firsthand. Recently, as racially charged events unfolded across our country, we felt a responsibility to act….

In forums from Oakland to New York to Chicago, as well as St. Louis, people shared personal experiences and ideas about how to move our country forward.

It may not be mentioned in this article, but I believe a murder in Milwaukee last April was the critical incident that triggered Starbucks’s consciousness on race relations in America. A year ago this month, Starbucks was directly involved in a case where a Milwaukee police officer fatally shot an unarmed mentally ill man fourteen times. What role did Starbucks play in this fourteen shot tragedy?

On April 30 of last year, barista Kelly Brandmeyer went into her Starbucks at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee for her noon–7:30 pm work shift. The regular Starbucks location was undergoing renovations, so Brandmeyer and her co-workers reported to a temporary trailer in the park where Starbucks set up shop. Brandmeyer had no idea that during her shift she was going to witness firsthand the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton by a local police officer.

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