Saturday, June 27, 2015

Out of Iron Mountain: Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucci - Part 2

Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈittso]; born January 30, 1955) is an American college basketball coach. Since 1995, he has been the head coach for the Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team, presiding over a prolonged period of success.

Under Izzo, the Michigan State program has been one of the most successful in the country. Izzo has led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA Division I National Championship, the 2009 NCAA Division I National Championship Game, seven Final Fours, and seven Big Ten Championships in his first 18 years at Michigan State. The coach with the most wins in school history, Izzo's teams have earned invitations to the past 18 consecutive NCAA tournaments, in addition to setting the Big Ten record for the longest home winning streak. These accomplishments led analyst Andy Katz at ESPN to deem Michigan State the top college basketball program for the decade from 1998 to 2007.

Currently the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten Conference, Izzo, whose teams are often recognized for their rebounding prowess and defensive tenacity, has won four national coach of the year awards and maintains a considerable coaching tree—several of his former assistants are currently head coaches at other Division I schools. Izzo is just the fifth coach in Big Ten history to win seven conference titles. His immense success during the NCAA tournament has earned Izzo the nickname "Mr. March" among active coaches.



Playing career

Izzo was born and raised in Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he met best friend and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci. Both attended Iron Mountain High where they were teammates on the football, basketball and track teams. At Northern Michigan University in Marquette, where they were roommates, Izzo played guard for the men's basketball team from 1973 to 1977. In his senior season, he set a school record for minutes played and was named a Division II All-American.

Early coaching career

After graduating from Northern Michigan, Izzo was head coach at Ishpeming High School for one season. He then took an assistant coaching job at Northern Michigan University from 1979 to 1983. Izzo was then named a part-time assistant at Michigan State in September 1983. After a short two-month stay in 1986 as an assistant coach at University of Tulsa, Izzo returned to Michigan State when assistant Mike Deane left to become head coach at Siena College. Prior to the 1990–91 season, then-current coach Jud Heathcote elevated Izzo to associate head coach. After Heathcote's retirement following the 1994-95 season and upon both his and the Michigan State Athletic Director's recommendation, Izzo was named the new head coach of men's basketball for MSU.

Head coach at Michigan State

Hired as head coach at Michigan State in 1995, Izzo is currently the longest-tenured basketball coach in the Big Ten Conference. He became the coach with the most wins in school history after winning his 341st game on November 29, 2009 to surpass Heathcote.[7] In his first two seasons as head coach, Izzo went 9-9 finishing 6th and 7th in the conference and failed to make the tournament. In 1998, MSU's record in conference improved to 13-3 and Izzo won the first of his seven regular-season Big Ten championships. 1998 also saw Michigan State begin a streak of 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, which is the 3rd longest current streak among Division I teams. During that run only Roy Williams (40 wins) and Mike Krzyzewski (41 wins) have more NCAA tournament wins than Tom Izzo (39). The following season Izzo won his first of four Big Ten Tournament titles, and went to the first of Izzo's three straight Final Four appearances, joining Krzyzewski and Ben Howland as the only three coaches who have made three consecutive Final Fours since the NCAA tournament bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Izzo's .725 winning percentage (37-14 record) in the NCAA tournament ranks third among all active coaches with 10 or more games coached.[8] However, since Michigan was forced by the NCAA to vacate five of those victories due to violations, Izzo's official record against the Wolverines is 20-9.

In 2000, Izzo led MSU to its second NCAA national championship with an 89-76 win over the Florida Gators. Eighty-two percent of his players who completed their eligibility left MSU with a degree. Over the last ten years, Izzo has been pursued by the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and New Jersey Nets for head coaching jobs.[9][10][11] Izzo fell short of obtaining his 2nd national championship on April 6, 2009, losing to North Carolina 89–72. His streak of three straight Final Four appearances from 1999 to 2001 is the third-longest of all time, and his six Final Four appearances in the years 1999–2010 were matched by no other team in college basketball. During the summer of 2010, Izzo was approached by the Cleveland Cavaliers on becoming their next head coach. With the possibility of potentially being able to coach LeBron James, Izzo pondered the offer for over a week. Finally, on June 15, 2010, Izzo reported to the Michigan State University's Board of Trustees that he would remain head coach of Michigan State, in which he stated he was "a Spartan for life."

In 2013 Izzo was voted the fifth angriest coach in college basketball by USA Today Sports, an honor that he cherishes.

Coaching philosophy

Izzo's teams are known for strong guard play, toughness and rebounding. Izzo is famed for his "war" rebounding drill, in which the players wear football helmets and shoulder pads.[15] His motto is "Players Play – Tough Players Win".[16] His other coaching philosophies include, "he doesn't determine playing time, players do" and "A player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team." Izzo is also known for scheduling extremely tough non-conference schedules as preparation for the NCAA tournament. This way the players have already played the top teams in the country and won't be fazed come March Madness.

"We'll play anybody, anyplace, anytime. It doesn't matter, morning, noon or night, and it doesn't matter who it is." --Tom Izzo

Iron Mountain, Michigan

Sport: Basketball

Current position
Title: Head coach
Team: Michigan State
Conference: Big Ten
Record : 494–199 (.713)

Personal details
Born: January 30, 1955
Iron Mountain, Michigan

Playing career
1973–1977 Northern Michigan

Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1977–1978 Ishpeming HS
1979–1983 Northern Michigan (assistant)
1983–1995 Michigan State (assistant)
1995–present Michigan State

Head coaching record
Overall: 494–199 (.713)

Accomplishments and honors

1 NCAA Division I Tournament Championship (2000)
7 NCAA Regional Championships – Final Four (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015)
7 Big Ten Regular Season Championships (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2012)
4 Big Ten Tournament Championships (1999, 2000, 2012, 2014)

9 Elite Eights (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015)
13 Sweet Sixteens (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
18 NCAA Tournament bids (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

1 Associated Press National Coach of the Year (1998)
1 NABC Coach of the Year (2012)
1 Henry Iba Award (1998)
3 Big Ten Coach of the Year (1998, 2009, 2012)


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