Michigan State vs. Kentucky: Contrasting Coaching Styles Featured in Epic Clash

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Michigan State vs. Kentucky: Contrasting Coaching Styles Featured in Epic Clash
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Izzo encourages four-year stays.

In terms of style and philosophy, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Kentucky's John Calipari couldn't be more different. 

Izzo, a program-first, four-year family guy, has a 19-year run that is, without question, the greatest in Spartans history—but it's also one of the game's crowning achievements. Izzo embodies college basketball; his six Final Fours and four-time coach of the year honors prove it. 

NCAA hoops needs more Izzos. 

Calipari, the Wildcats' wildly successful front man, simply serves as an entry-level recruiter for the NBA. Playing at Kentucky is a springboard to the Association, and the 5-star recruits of the world know that accepting what essentially breaks down to a one-year stay gets them closer to mega money. 

Which coach's persona do you admire most?

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Final Fours are fun. National titles are great. But making millions as a teenager... come on... who wouldn't want that? 

If they're good enough and feel as if college basketball—or college in general—wouldn't benefit them, so be it. There's no rule saying that they can't take advantage of Calipari's exemplary connections and track record of popping out lottery picks. 

That's what makes Tuesday's Champions Classic in Chicago a must-watch. There's Duke and Kansas, but Izzo vs. Calipari is so captivating. It's almost a Good vs. Evil, the Corporation vs. Moms and Pops. Izzo is a Yooper.

That explains everything. Calipari probably wouldn't know what to do with a sled or canoe. 

Calipari plays Billy Crystal to Izzo's Jack Palance; city slicker vs. Curly, the anti-city hometown hero. 

By now, you've picked up on the fact that they're polar opposites. 

It's time to get this thing on the road. 

Quick head-to-head
Coach Izzo Cal
Titles that count 1 1
Final Fours that count 6 2
Tournament appearances that count 16 12

Izzo 19 years as head coach vs. Cal's 22

 

Public Image

Izzo isn't seen as a dirty coach. Cal is, and has been since he left UMass in ruins, having to vacate the Minutemen's 1996 Final Four appearance because Marcus Camby took money from an agent. 

Don't forget about the Derrick Rose-SAT trickery in 2008. Using a stand-in for a test? That was the story, and Calipari reportedly had nothing to do with it. But it happened on his watch. Doesn't look good either way.  

There's more for Calipari, both minor and major. But why beat a dead horse? 

Leaving trails of suspicion isn't Izzo's style.

He's been at Michigan State since 1983. He's not going anywhere, and his tenure has pretty much been an open book—other than a couple of transfers involving Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, the Spartans have been relatively boring. 

Well, Mateen Cleaves was reportedly linked to a couple of minor incidents in 1997. That caused a stir, but the proverbial hammer from the NCAA wasn't about to smash upon East Lansing. 

And, in 2010, Izzo unknowingly paid a "secondary" party $475 for five days of work during a middle school basketball camp. Harmless, but a clear no-no in the eyes of the NCAA, which suspended him for one game. 

Izzo handled the sanctions with class. 

Calipari isn't always viewed in that light. It seems as if he's more smoke and mirrors. 

Izzo isn't linked to wrongdoing and back-alley business calls. Calipari, despite being a proven winner, just doesn't rub people the right way. And unless he's coaching your favorite team, you probably don't care for him as a coach, either. 

The following tweet in 2012 from Scott Anderson, editor of several UK-related sites, addresses an interesting topic. 

 

Different Paths

Not many coaches come kick off the season in Top Gun gear, nor do they pull stunts with cannons...

Izzo is a maniac on the sidelines.

There aren't many coaches who let loose like he does. And truthfully, that style probably wouldn't translate well into the NBA.

Grown men with limitless bank accounts and shoe deals probably wouldn't respond to a tirade from Izzo, who's been around teenagers and early-20s college kids his entire career.

He's meant for college basketball. That's not meant to question his pro-coaching skills—he's been mentioned in conjunction with Team USA, he could handle it—but the Big Ten needs him. 

The Spartans need him. And it's worth repeating that college basketball needs such an ambassador. 

Calipari has been in the ring with the big boys.

Izzo's been invited but declined each time.

Calipari had a three-year stint with the New Jersey Nets after the UMass mess. After the Nets experiment, he landed with the Philadelphia 76ers prior to accepting the Memphis job in 2000. 

He'll likely end up back in the NBA, playing against a half-dozen of his former players every time he turns around.

 

Getting to Know Players

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to name a Kentucky senior from the Cal era. 

That's because there haven't been too many. Matter of fact, these days, a sophomore is a senior. It's like junior college in that regard. 

Izzo seniors kiss center court at the Breslin Center. They appear on the court with family. They cry. They thank fans. 

Draymond Green, Drew Neitzel, Kalin Lucas, Mateen Cleaves...

The list goes on; players truly evolve while at Michigan State, from the stars to the unsung heroes such as the Tim Bograkoses and Austin Thorntons of the world. 

Who wins?

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This season, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are on their farewell tour. They can help extend the tradition of each four-year player appearing in the Final Four. 

Kentucky doesn't exactly promote the same type of atmosphere.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Cal, notorious for his one-and-done players, ships them out as quickly as they step foot on campus. He doesn't have to develop seniors and hope for something from a walk-on player. 

Wildcats freshmen are nothing less than the best of the best. Get a title here and there and call it good. But there's always the threat of paying the price for success. 

Izzo turns modestly rated kids into program staples. He'll get to a Final Four and title game. Most would agree that he's due for one rather soon. He hasn't been to the semis since 2010, and he lost in the 2009 title game to North Carolina. 

Tuesday night, two of the elite programs take the floor, each with the same goal, but driven by completely different men, who each share the same dream of winning titles.

One guy goes about it in a modest way, while the other doesn't mind testing risks to rewards.

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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