Michigan State Homeboy: Why It's Impossible to Dislike Tom Izzo

John MartinCorrespondent IApril 6, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Travis Walton #5 while taking on the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The more and more I see the Michigan State Spartans play, the more and more I admire Tom Izzo and his hard work.

At the beginning of the tournament, if you had told me there would be a No. 2 seed from the left side of the bracket in the National Championship game, I would've been elated.

My head would have exploded with anticipation, because I would have thought that you were talking about the Memphis Tigers.

If you saw Michigan State playing in the National Championship game, raise your hand.

Outside of the "Sparty" contingent, I shouldn't be seeing many hands, because virtually no one was on the Michigan State bandwagon when the seeds were released. They were destined to play Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed, in Indianapolis. They were at a loss before they even stepped onto the court.

If you watched that game, you probably saw one of the best performances from a given team this decade out of Michigan State. They completely forced Louisville into Big Ten basketball. It was incredible.

And there they stood. The Michigan State Spartans, led by General Izzo, were in the Final Four and were pitted against the UConn Huskies and Hasheem Thabeet.

It was a daunting challenge. Nobody  thought it possible for the undersized, less athletic Michigan State Spartans to knock off the long, explosive UConn Huskies, me included.

In retrospect, I feel like an idiot.

Michigan State played with passion. They played with sheer heart and determination. They played with a purpose. They won.

And it all started with Tom Izzo.

Rarely have I seen a coach so passionate and involved in his team the way Izzo is. The guy doesn't so much as take a breath when the game clock is ticking. He really is a class act.

CBS, as they occasionally do, flashed an unprecedented segment that displayed the team's roster. Nine—count them, NINE—players were from the state of Michigan. Since I don't follow Michigan State, as I'm stationed in Memphis, this stat shocked me.


What a feat for Tom Izzo. The guy has been nothing short of supremely successful at the helm for the Spartans, and wouldn't you know it, he does it with LOCAL talent!

This guy doesn't recruit nationally. He shies away from all of that. He gets his assets from his home state.

There may be another program in the country that follows the same suit, but I can guarantee you that they're nowhere near the level that Michigan State is. Five of the last 11 Final Fours have been crashed by Sparty and his hometown homies.


In a sport where loyalty is becoming a trait that's few and far between, this man shows nothing but loyalty.

If you listen to him when he speaks, you can tell.

His name may come up in the coaching carousel, but you'd be a fool to think this guy was leaving the Michigan State program.

And with the way these Spartans are playing, you'd be a fool to think these guys are leaving Detroit without cutting down the nets.