He doesn't have the titles like Mike Krzyzewski, the recruiting flair of John Calipari, or the coaching bloodline of John Thompson III. What Tom Izzo does have is one of the best fifteen year runs in all of college basketball.
He may not have the same pedigree as some of the top coaches in college basketball but he can get the most out of his team when it counts. We have seen it on display time and time again. He can have his team play typical Big Ten basketball or he can have his team run and gun with the best of them. The odds are stacked against him and his team and they gut out a performance unlike any other. When you look past all the stats and the plays made there is Tom Izzo leading the Spartans.
Currently the longest tenured coach in Big Ten Conference Tom Izzo the Michigan State Spartans have been the model of success in college basketball. Andy Katz deemed the program "college basketball's top program in the decade" from 1998-2007.
Let’s take a quick look at Izzo's resume at Michigan State. 364 wins, 13 straight NCAA appearances, 9 Sweet 16's, 7 Elite 8's, 6 Big Ten Titles, 6 Final Four's (he accomplished the rare feat of going to three straight from 99-01 and then back to back in 09-10), and 1 National Championship. He currently ranks 7th in Elite Eight Appearances, and 6th in Final Four Appearances.
The biggest testament to his coaching ability has always been in March and it has been seen this year more than ever. A majority of people around the country didn’t predict Michigan State to go very far in the tournament after they started the season as the #2 team in the country after coming off a championship game loss to North Carolina in last year’s tournament and limped into this year’s tourney. The window got even smaller as leading scorer and assist man Kalin Lucas went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon and will be out for the remainder of the tournament. Many people thought that upstart Northern Iowa would knock them off, including me. However they prevailed and then beat a Tennessee team that was having its most successful March of all time. Tom Izzo makes his team win.
Most years Michigan State is expected to win a couple games in the tournament but rarely are they seen as legitimate title contenders. Most of the nation overlooks this scrappy Spartan team, and every year they screw up brackets across the country. Let’s look at some his greatest tournament runs as an underdog/toughest trip:
2003- enters tournament as a #7 seed; beat #10 Colorado, #2 Florida, #6 Maryland, lost to #1 Texas (Elite Eight)
2005- enters tournament as a #5 seed; beat #12 ODU, #13 Vermont, #1 Duke, #1 Kentucky, lost to UNC (Final Four)
2009- enters tournament as a #2 seed; beat #15 Robert Morris, #10 USC, #3 Kansas, #1 Louisville, #1 UCONN, lost to #1 UNC (Championship Game)
2010- enters tournament as a #5 seed; beat #12 New Mexico St., #4 Maryland, #9 UNI, #6 Tennessee, next game vs #5 Butler in hometown Indianapolis.
On top of his ability to motivate his players he is a very good recruiter going after guys who may not be the flashiest ala John Wall but he goes after solid basketball players. He has recruited 12 High School All-Americans, 11 Mr. Basketball Winners, coached 6 All-America players, and 15 of his players have been named to All Big Ten conference teams.
Of his players at Michigan State 11 has been selected to play in the NBA most notably Zach Randolph and Jason Richardson. One of his former players has won an NBA championship; Shannon Brown with the Lakers last season.
His ability to develop players is also seen in his coaches. 7 of his assistants have been or currently are head coaches. Most notably has been Tom Crean who was the head coach at Marquette during the Dwayne Wade years and is currently trying to resurrect Indiana University.
When it is all said and done Tom Izzo will be in the Hall of Fame. He doesn’t even have to win another National Championship. He took a school that had been lost since Magic Johnson left and put them back on the national map and they are always in the hunt for a title.