Less than 18 hours after Bobby Williams was fired Monday evening, Morris Watts fielded questions from the media for the first time as the interim head coach Tuesday afternoon.
Watts has been handed the task of trying to motivate a 3-6 team that has been blown out in its last four games. He replaces Williams, the man he backed when former head coach Nick Saban bolted for Louisiana State in 1999.
Watts said he talked with Williams after both learned of Athletic Director Ron Mason's decision.
"He was hurt," he said. "If someone takes away something in your life that you greatly cherish, then I can't imagine many people not being hurt, especially if they're a competitor."
Watts, who was the offensive coordinator, will have a huge job in replacing a coach that most of the players adored. He started by inviting individual players to come talk to him.
"And as of right now, I've talked to probably close to 40 of the players that came in on their own to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation about what we could do in the last three ball games to get a maximum effort and give ourselves the best chance to win."
He added the players were hurt, but he expected that.
"If these young men who had been recruited by coach Williams, if they weren't hurt, it wouldn't be a natural thing," he said. "I explained the fact that he's not the only one that's leaving. Look at all the assistant coaches around the room, including myself we're part of the people that are going out the door.
"So we have to move on."
Watts discussed junior quarterback Jeff Smoker's indefinite suspension at the press conference. He talked about the chances of Smoker playing again this season and his future at MSU.
Smoker hasn't played since Oct. 19.
"As far as this season, I would say that's not a very good possibility," he said.
"I would say for the future, I have no doubt in my mind that Jeff Smoker will be back to the Jeff Smoker that we knew when we were recruiting him and when he was playing as a freshman and sophomore.
"The reason I think that he will again be successful - wherever he chooses to do it at - is because of the young man that he was when he started."
After Watts finished answering questions at the press conference, men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo spoke to the media mostly about Williams and football, rather than his team. He said he sympathizes for Williams as he would any coach.
"I feel sad because I still think you have to leave this job in the hands of 17- to 22-year-olds, which means there are some ups and downs," he said.
Izzo also said he's comfortable taking a backseat to football and the success of both teams depend on each other.
"I heard a comment that this is becoming a basketball school," he said.
"I think we all know this is a football school and always will be a football school. And it should be a football school and basketball should be very high on that list right under it."
There are 1,100 tickets remaining for the last home game of the season against Purdue at 12:10 p.m. Nov. 16.
Tickets can be purchased at the Athletic Ticket Office in Jenison Field House or by calling (800) G0-STATE or (517) 355- 1610.