Skip to main content

State of Excellence

February 13, 2012

With each player congratulating him as they made their way to the bench, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo could not hold back his emotions any longer.  The veteran coach began to shed a few tears as he won his 400th game with a win over conference foe Minnesota on January 25, 68-52.

Showing emotion is nothing new for Izzo.  He is one of the most intense coaches in the game today, always demanding the best out of his players, coaches, and fans.  He does not try and hide anything on the court.  However, it’s when that emotion comes from his achievements that makes it a surprise. 

Izzo is never one to mention the numerous accomplishments he has accumulated over his  past 17 seasons roaming the sidelines of the Breslin Center.  He always gives credit to anyone and everyone who has helped him throughout his career before he acknowledges his own success.  And since he is so modest, I’ll do the bragging for him. 

One national championship.  Six final fours.  Six Big Ten Championships.  Four National Coach of the year awards.  14 straight NCAA tournament berths.  Sixth most wins (383) by a head coach through their first 16 seasons in the history of college basketball.  MSU’s all-time wins leader (401-166).  A 72.9 winning percentage in the NCAA tournament.  The list goes on and on.

As an avid Spartan fan, since I moved to the MSU area in 1996, I understand how much Izzo means to the community.  He’s more than just the head coach of the men’s basketball team.  He’s an advocate for the school as well as the state of Michigan.  He never shy’s away from autographs or public appearances while representing the upmost professionalism on and off the court. 

Unlike many other coaches (See John Calipari) and programs (See Baylor) around the country, Izzo and the MSU men’s basketball team has been scandal free.  Not once has he been accused of paying players, cheating, or violating any major recruiting violations.  The minor blip on his radar was a one-game suspension he served in December of 2010 for a secondary violation of NCAA rules.  Essentially MSU employed a man to help with the summer basketball camp MSU always puts on and it just so happened that the individual had personal contact (which is against the rules) with a middle school prospect.  Yes, you read that correctly, middle school.

Even with the minor violation Izzo remains one of the most respected coaches in the game today.  You will be hard pressed to find someone who has something bad to say about him (outside of Ann Arbor, at least).

The Spartan family understands 400th meant more to Izzo than just a great individual achievement.  It meant all his hard work, all the hours spent recruiting, all the ups and downs, all 17 years at the helm have contributed to building the MSU program into a perennial powerhouse in college basketball.  And even with all of the admiration he receives, Izzo never lets it get to him.

So when he finally broke down and enjoyed his 400th victory, it came as a bit of a surprise to many MSU faithful.  Spartan Nation believes he has earned the right to enjoy his milestone…even if he would say otherwise.