Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and UNF's Matthew Driscoll and players discuss MSU-Hillsdale game.
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and Hillsdale's John Tharp discuss MSU-Hillsdale game.
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Tom Izzo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9, 2016, cementing his status as one of the game's all-time greats.
Now in his 23rd year, Izzo has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments, including the 2000 NCAA National Championship, seven regular-season Big Ten Championships, five Big Ten Tournament titles, seven Final Four appearances, eight National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-record 20 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
These accomplishments, however, are not what make Izzo one of the best in the game, but rather it is his insatiable desire to accomplish more.
With a career record of 544-220, it's easy to see that Izzo knows how to win, but he also knows how to win the right way. In his 22 years directing the Spartan program, 85 percent of his players who completed their eligibility also left with a degree. In the last 18 years, 54 Spartans have received their undergraduate degrees.
In 22 seasons, Izzo has returned Michigan State to national prominence, placed his name in the NCAA record books and become a leader among college basketball coaches.
Izzo's 544 wins are fifth most by any coach in his first 22 seasons in the history of college basketball. In late November 2009, he passed his mentor Jud Heathcote (340 wins) to become MSU's all-time winningest coach. In the NCAA Tournament, Izzo is at his best, winning at a clip of .712 to rank fifth among all active coaches with at least 10 tournament games coached. His 47 NCAA Tournament wins are the most ever for a Big Ten coach, and tied with John Wooden for seventh all-time.
A 2015 inductee into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, Izzo led MSU to seven Final Four appearances between 1999 and 2015, becoming just the fourth school in college basketball history to do it in any 17-year span, including just the third since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Izzo is one of just two coaches in NCAA history to reach four Final Fours in his first 10 years of coaching, joining Ohio State's Fred Taylor, and is just the second coach in NCAA history to appear in seven Final Fours in a 17-year span since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. His seven Final Four appearances rank tied for fifth all-time, tied for third among active coaches and first all-time among Big Ten coaches. Two stats stand out in Izzo's NCAA Tournament success: 1) MSU is 21-5 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend 2) MSU is 14-11 as the lower-seeded team, as the 14 wins are the most in NCAA Tournament history for any coach.
Through 22 seasons, Izzo is already one of the most successful coaches in Big Ten history. His .681 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks fourth all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, while in all games, Izzo ranks fifth (.712). With 256 conference victories, Izzo ranks third all-time, trailing just Indiana's Bob Knight (353 wins) and Purdue's Gene Keady (265 wins), while also ranking second for most wins at a Big Ten institution (544), trailing just Knight (662).
Furthermore, Izzo brings stability to Michigan State basketball. The 2016-17 season was Izzo's 34th with the Spartans, as he is the longest serving active Big Ten men's basketball head coach. He is also a leader among his peers, serving as the NABC President from April 2010-April 2011, while currently serving as Director Emeritus. He's also held spots on the John R. Wooden Award Board of Governors and the USA Basketball Collegiate Committee.
Over the past 20 seasons, Izzo has compiled an impressive 511-192 (.727) record. A quick look at other stats further demonstrates the Spartans' success over that stretch: 238-102 (.700) in the Big Ten; 282-34 (.892) at the Breslin Center, including a Big Ten record 53-game winning streak; 111-103 (.519) against Top 25 teams (including three wins over No. 1-ranked teams); 75-34 (.688) in postseason play and 47-19 (.712) in the NCAA Tournament.
Individually, players have excelled under Izzo. Ten Spartans (Charlie Bell, Mateen Cleaves, Paul Davis, Draymond Green, Gary Harris, Drew Neitzel, Adreian Payne, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson and Denzel Valentine) have earned some form of All-America honors. Valentine earned six different National Player of the Year awards in 2016 (Associated Press, Basketball Times, NABC, NBC, Sports Illustrated, USA TODAY Sports,), and Green was named National Player of the Year by the NABC in 2012. Chris Hill was a three-time Academic All-American, including being named the Academic All-American of the Year in 2005, while Neitzel also earned Academic All-America accolades.
Thirty-one different players have earned all-conference recognition, including 12 different first-team honorees, five Big Ten Players of the Year (Cleaves, Green, Lucas, Peterson, Valentine), two Big Ten Freshmen of the Year (Gary Harris and Miles Bridges) and one Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (Travis Walton).
One of the reasons for Izzo's success is his ability to recruit some of the nation's most talented high school players. During his time as head coach, Izzo has recruited 15 McDonald's All-Americans (Mateen Cleaves - 1996, Jason Richardson - 1999, Marcus Taylor and Zach Randolph - 2000, Kelvin Torbert - 2001, Paul Davis - 2002, Shannon Brown and Brandon Cotton - 2003, Keith Appling - 2010, Branden Dawson - 2011, Gary Harris - 2012, Deyonta Davis -- 2015, Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford -- 2016, Jaren Jackson Jr. - 2017). In addition, 10 of the last 18 Michigan Mr. Basketball award winners suited up for the Green and White (1999 - Richardson, 2000 - Taylor, 2001 - Torbert, 2002 - Davis, 2004 - Drew Neitzel, 2009 - Derrick Nix, 2010 - Appling, 2012 - Matt Costello, 2015 -- Davis, 2016 -- Cassius Winston), while Shannon Brown won the 2003 Illinois Mr. Basketball Award and Gary Harris won the 2012 Indiana Mr. Basketball Award.
But perhaps even more important to Izzo's success is his ability to take young talent and develop a player's skills, allowing him to grow as a player and go on to play professionally. Under Izzo, Michigan State has had 18 players selected in the NBA Draft, including 17 since 2000, nine of whom were first rounders (Mateen Cleaves - 2000 first round, Morris Peterson - 2000 first round, Jason Richardson - 2001 first round, Zach Randolph - 2001 first round, Andre Hutson - 2001 second round, Marcus Taylor - 2002 second round, Erazem Lorbek - 2005 second round, Shannon Brown - 2006 first round, Maurice Ager - 2006 first round, Paul Davis - 2006 second round, Goran Suton - 2009 second round, Draymond Green - 2012 second round, Adreian Payne - 2014 first round, Gary Harris - 2014 first round, Branden Dawson - 2015 second round, Denzel Valentine - 2016 first round, Deyonta Davis - 2016 second round). Ager, Cleaves, Dawson, D. Davis, P. Davis, Harris, Payne, Richardson, Randolph and Taylor were all high school All-Americans, but Izzo took others who were not ranked in the top 75 coming out of high school, and turned them into NBA talent. In addition, Izzo-recruit Charlie Bell played in the NBA during the 2001-02 season after signing a free agent contract. After a successful stint overseas, Bell played seven more seasons in the NBA. Alan Anderson, a member of the 2005 Final Four team, signed a free agent contract and played two years with the Charlotte Bobcats and, after a stint in Europe, is in his fifth season back in the NBA. In the last two seasons, Kalin Lucas, Keith Appling and Bryn Forbes have also played in the NBA after signing free agent contracts. Numerous other former Spartans have enjoyed lucrative professional careers playing overseas.
Izzo has also emerged as a teacher, not only to his players, but also his assistant coaches. Two current Division I head coaches served as assistants to Izzo, including Brian Gregory (South Florida) and Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois). In total, eight former assistants have earned head coaching jobs. Current assistant Mike Garland spent three seasons as head coach at Cleveland State following an initial seven-year stint at MSU, while Stan Joplin was also head coach at Toledo for 12 seasons, Jim Boylen served as head coach at Utah for four seasons and Stan Heath served as head coach at Kent State, Arkansas and South Florida over 13 seasons. Doug Wojcik spent nine seasons between Tulsa and College of Charleston. Tom Crean was head coach for 18 seasons, splitting time between Marquette and Indiana.
The 2016-17 season saw Michigan State advance to the NCAA Tournament for a Big Ten-record 20th straight season. It was not an easy road, however, to reach the postseason. Before the season started, the Spartans lost senior forwards Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling to season-ending knee injuries. MSU's November was arguably the toughest opening month in college basketball history. In addition to games against four ranked opponents, all away from home, the Spartans traveled more than 13,600 miles in 22 days with trips to Hawaii, New York, North Carolina and the Bahamas. In December, the Spartans played seven contests without leading scorer Miles Bridges. Despite all the adversity, including losing a third player, Eron Harris, to a season-ending knee injury in February, the Spartans pulled together and used a 5-2 mark in February to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament. When MSU defeated Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans secured their 20th win of the season. It was quite an accomplishment for a team that was one of the least experienced (321st) and shortest (291st) in the nation according to KenPom.com. Of the 25 20-win seasons in Michigan State history, Izzo has been involved in 22 of them, 17 as a head coach and five as an assistant.
2015-16 was a milestone year both for Coach Izzo and the Spartans. Michigan State opened the year by winning its first 13 games, establishing a new school mark for best start to a season. When the Spartans defeated Boston College on November 26, Izzo became the 91st coach in NCAA history to record 500 career wins, with at least 10 seasons in Division I, and just the eighth coach to accomplish the feat in his first 21 seasons. He also became just the 18th coach to win 500 career games in his first collegiate head-coaching stop, and was the eighth-fastest coach to reach 500 wins among those who did it all at one school, accomplishing the feat in 699 games.
On December 7, MSU rose to No. 1 in the regular-season polls for just the fourth time in school history, and the third time under Izzo. The Spartans would hold the top spot for a school-record four weeks. Following a perfect 13-0 non-conference slate, Michigan State would finish second in the Big Ten with a 13-5 mark. A victory over Northwestern gave Izzo 513 for his career, moving past Purdue's Gene Keady for second-most wins at a Big Ten School, trailing only Bob Knight (662). In the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans defeated Ohio State, Maryland and Purdue to become the first school in Big Ten history to hold five conference tournament titles. The Spartans earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they were upset by No. 15 Middle Tennessee. MSU finished the season with a 29-6 record, matching the fourth-best win total in school history, as the Spartans' 26 regular-season victories equaled a school record. Izzo's Spartans were the only team in the nation to win 27 or more games every year from 2011-12 to 2015-16.
Statistically, the 2015-16 season was one of the most impressive in school history. Michigan State led the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (.434), rebound margin (+11.4), assists per game (20.5) and total assists (719). The Spartans ranked in the top three in eight different categories, and in the Top 10 in 11 different categories. It marked the fifth time in Izzo's career that the Spartans led the nation in rebounding margin. MSU also set school single-season records for assists (719), 3-point field goals made (321) and blocked shots (177). The 719 assists were the 22nd-best total in NCAA history, while MSU recorded an assist on a nation's-best 71.3 percent of its field goals. At 79.8 points per game, the 2015-16 squad was the highest-scoring team of the Izzo era, and the highest-scoring team since 1985-86. In Big Ten Conference games, MSU led the conference in 12 stat categories and was ranked in the top three in 17 of the 21 stats.
The 2014-15 Spartans provided a lesson in resiliency and the power of togetherness. MSU opened the season ranked in the polls, but by Christmas, the Spartans had fallen out of the rankings. Following a home loss to Illinois on Feb. 7, the Spartans stood at 15-8, including just 6-4 in conference. MSU closed the regular season by winning six of its last eight games, including a final week that featured a come-from-behind home finale win over Purdue on Senior Day despite a first-half injury to Branden Dawson, and a regular-season finale victory at Indiana without Dawson. In the Big Ten Tournament, MSU defeated Ohio State and No. 8 Maryland before falling to No. 6 Wisconsin in overtime. The Spartans were disappointed to have let a championship opportunity slip away, but entered the NCAA Tournament on a mission.
Having entered March just hoping to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the postseason run turned a good season into a great one. As the No. 7 seed, MSU opened with a victory over No. 10 Georgia. In the third round, MSU faced No. 2 Virginia for the second-straight season, defeating the Cavaliers to advance to a nation's-best seventh Sweet 16 in the last eight seasons. At the East Regional in Syracuse, the Spartans trailed at the half against both No. 3 Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 and No. 4 Louisville in the Elite Eight, before rallying for a pair of victories to reach the Final Four. Making its nation's-best seventh Final Four appearance in the last 17 seasons, MSU got off to a quick start against No. 1 Duke before falling to the eventual National Champion Blue Devils. MSU would finish 27-12, 12-6 in the Big Ten.
The senior class of 2015 finished tied for the second-winningest class in school history with 112 wins. The 2014-15 Spartans established school single-season records for assists (646) and blocks (176), while the 294 made 3-pointers were second-most in school history. Averaging 16.6 assists per game, the Spartans ranked fifth in the nation, while ranking seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5). Defensively, MSU posted a .396 field-goal percentage defense, marking the fourth-straight season that Spartan opponents shot less than 40 percent from the field.
The 2013-14 season was not short of highlights. It started early, with No. 2 MSU knocking off No. 1 Kentucky, 78-74, on Nov. 12 in Chicago, in what was the earliest game ever between No. 1 and No. 2. One week later, MSU ascended to No. 1 in the polls, a position it would hold for three weeks -- establishing a school record at the time for the longest stay at No. 1. In late November, the Spartans captured the Coaches Vs. Cancer Tournament in Brooklyn, marking MSU's first regular-season, neutral-site tournament championship since December 1998.
Injuries proved to be a common storyline during the 2013-14 campaign, as six different players, including each one of MSU's top four scorers, missed multiple games due to injury or illness for a total of 29 games missed. In 19 of 38 games, including 13 of 18 Big Ten contests, the Spartans were without their full allotment of players due to injury. In nine games, Michigan State was without two of its regular rotation players. In total, 11 different Spartans started at least one game, as Izzo employed 15 different starting lineups. The fluctuation led to inconsistent results through much of the Big Ten slate, but by the end of the regular season, MSU was getting healthy.
Playing at full strength, the Spartans played at a different level in the postseason, steamrolling through the Big Ten Tournament. The championship game featured the third meeting of the season between in-state rivals Michigan State and Michigan, marking the first time the Spartans and Wolverines would meet in the conference tournament. Although UM won the two regular-season meetings, this was the first time MSU would feature a complete roster, pulling away early in the second half to capture the fourth tournament championship in school history with a 69-55 victory.
MSU entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East Region, but was also a popular pick to advance to the Final Four and even cut down the championship nets. In the second round, Adreian Payne scored an MSU NCAA Tournament record 41 points to defeat Delaware, 93-78. Two days later, the Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 with an 80-73 win over Harvard. Playing in the East Regional in New York City's Madison Square Garden, Michigan State defeated No. 1 seed Virginia, 61-59. In the Elite Eight, the Spartans held a nine-point lead in the second half against Connecticut, but the eventual National Champion Huskies would rally for a 60-54 victory.
The 2013-14 Spartans finished with a 29-9 record, including 12-6 in the Big Ten, finishing tied for second. The 29 wins tied for the fourth-best total in school history, while MSU established single-season school records for assists (637), made 3-point field goals (307), and blocks (174). Michigan State led the conference in field-goal percentage defense (.397), while ranking second in field-goal percentage (.474) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.392). The Spartans also finished with an all-time low 11.6 turnovers per contest.
In 2012-13, the Spartans collected a 27-9 record, including 13-5 in the Big Ten, against perhaps the nation's most difficult schedule, playing 13 games against ranked opponents. The slate was especially difficult down the stretch as 14 of MSU's last 18 games (postseason included) were against opponents that participated in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State advanced to its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six seasons, ranking tied for the most in the nation.
On Jan. 16, 2013, Izzo recorded his 200th conference victory against Penn State, joining Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) as the only active coaches in a power conference with 200 conference wins at their current school. In April, Izzo received the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award, honoring an individual in college basketball who has made a significant impact on society.
The Spartans proved to be dominant defensively once again in 2012-13, pacing the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (.390) and steals (8.0 spg), while ranking second is scoring defense (59.1 ppg) and third in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.300). MSU also continued to be strong on the glass, ranking second in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation with a +7.6 rebound margin, marking the 11th time that an Izzo-coached team ranked in the Top 10 in the nation.
The 2011-12 season was one of Izzo's most rewarding as head coach. The Spartans entered the season unranked, returning only two players who averaged over 20 minutes a game the previous season. MSU opened the year with neutral-site losses to No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke, but responded with 15 straight victories, including road wins at No. 23 Gonzaga and No. 18 Wisconsin, marking the Spartans' first win in Madison since 2001. Keyed by a mid-February win at No. 3 Ohio State, MSU would go on to capture a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, the seventh of the Izzo era, and head to the Big Ten Tournament where it defeated Ohio State to capture the third Big Ten Tournament title in school history, and the first since 2000. Michigan State was rewarded with a No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, where it would advance to the Sweet 16 for the 10th time in the last 15 years, good for second most in the nation. MSU would finish with a 29-8 record.
Statistically, the Spartans finished the 2011-12 season ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.379), the best effort by a Spartan squad since 1959. Once again, the Spartans were a dominant presence on the glass, ranking fifth in the nation in rebounding margin (+8.0), and pacing the Big Ten for the 12th time in the last 15 seasons, and the 13th time in his career.
For his efforts, Izzo was named the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the league's media and coaches. He also was named Division I National Coach of the Year by the NABC, and was CBSSports.com's pick for national coach of the year as well.
The 2010-11 Spartans finished with a 19-15 mark and advanced to a 14th-straight NCAA Tournament. MSU faced a difficult regular-season schedule that included 18 of 33 games against the RPI Top 50 and 23 of 33 against the RPI Top 100.
Michigan State turned in another great season in 2009-10, capturing a share of a second-straight Big Ten Championship and advancing to a sixth Final Four in 12 seasons. With MSU's 106-68 victory over UMass in the sixth game of the season, Izzo recorded his 341st victory, becoming Michigan State's all-time winningest coach. The Spartans opened Big Ten play with a school-best 9-0 start and captured a share of the regular-season crown with a 14-4 mark. Overall, MSU would finish with a 28-9 record.
The Spartans opened the 2010 NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed and advanced through the first weekend with narrow victories over New Mexico State (70-67) and Maryland (85-83). In the Midwest Regional, the Spartans won two more close games, defeating Northern Iowa (59-52) and Tennessee (70-69) to advance to the program's eighth Final Four and the sixth in the last 12 seasons under Izzo.
Michigan State led the nation in rebounding margin for the fourth time in Izzo's career, out-rebounding opponents by a +8.6 margin.
The 2008-09 season was one of the best in the history of Spartan basketball. Michigan State advanced to its fifth Final Four in 11 seasons, becoming just the fifth school in the history of college basketball to accomplish that feat. During the regular season, the Spartans won the Big Ten Championship with a 15-3 league record, including a school-best 8-1 mark on the road. MSU won the league title by four games, equaling the second-greatest margin in conference history. Overall, Michigan State finished the season with a 31-7 record, the third-highest win total in school history. For his efforts, Izzo was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State advanced through the first weekend with wins over Robert Morris and USC. In the Sweet 16, the Spartans took out defending National Champion Kansas. In the Elite Eight, MSU beat No. 1 seed and No. 1 ranked Louisville, marking just the third victory over the top-ranked team in The Associated Press Top 25 in school history. At the Final Four in Detroit's Ford Field, the Spartans beat No. 1 seed Connecticut before eventually falling to North Carolina in the title game.
Michigan State led the nation in rebounding margin for the third time in Izzo's career, out-rebounding opponents by a +9.3 margin. It marked the eighth time that an Izzo-coached team ranked in the top 10 in the nation. The Spartans also proved to possess a high-powered attack, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense (72.0 ppg).
Izzo directed Michigan State to a 27-9 record in 2007-08. The season finished with a trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, marking MSU's seventh trip to the regionals in the last 11 years. The 27 wins marked the fifth-largest total in school history at the time, while the 24 regular-season victories were the then third-largest regular-season total for MSU. The Spartans were a perfect 17-0 at home, good for the first perfect home season since 2001 and the fourth in Breslin Center history.
The 2007-08 Spartans led the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+6.8). In league games, MSU paced the conference in field-goal percentage (.474) for the fifth-straight season, becoming the first school in league history to accomplish that feat.
Michigan State finished with a 23-12 mark in 2006-07. The Spartans had to overcome a large amount of adversity and a very difficult Big Ten schedule to advance to a 10th-straight NCAA Tournament. The Spartans also did something for the first time in school history - recording Michigan State's first home win over a No. 1-ranked team, with a 64-55 over Wisconsin.
The 2006-07 Spartans excelled by getting back to basics - rebounding and defense. On the glass, the Spartans led the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+7.0). Defensively, MSU allowed opponents just 57.2 points per game, the lowest total since the 1951-52 squad allowed 56.0 points. Opponents also shot just 38.4 percent from the field, the lowest percentage since 1958-59 (.379). Nationally, the Spartans ranked sixth in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense and eighth in rebounding margin.
In 2005-06, Michigan State finished with a 22-12 mark. The Spartans played one of the nation's toughest schedules, playing more games against teams ranked in the RPI top 25 (13) and top 50 (18) than any other school. In Big Ten games, MSU led the conference in five stat categories including free-throw percentage (.781), field-goal percentage (.469), rebounding defense (30.1), rebounding margin (+4.2) and assists (15.81 apg).
Michigan State returned to the Final Four in 2005, becoming the only team to appear in four Final Fours between 1999 and 2005. The Spartans finished the season with a 26-7 mark, including 22-5 in the regular season. Since joining the Big Ten, only three Spartan teams finished the regular season with fewer losses.
In the NCAA Tournament, MSU defeated No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kentucky in the Austin Regional, becoming the first team in tournament history to defeat the Blue Devils and the Wildcats in the same year. Despite losing to North Carolina in the Final Four, Izzo was named the 2005 Clair Bee Award winner, recognizing the Division I men's basketball coach who has made the most significant positive contribution to his sport.
Not only did the 2004-05 Spartans win, they were also statistically impressive, ranking in the top 15 nationally in six statistical categories, including free-throw percentage (3rd, .777), scoring margin (7th, +13.1), assists per game (10th, 17.1 apg), field-goal percentage (11th, .487), rebound margin (11th, +6.8) and scoring offense (13th, 78.5 ppg). MSU led the Big Ten in scoring for the second-straight year with 78.5 points per game - its highest scoring average since 1985-86 (83.1 ppg).
During the season, Izzo recorded his 232nd win at MSU, moving past Benjamin Van Alstyne for the second most number of career wins in Spartan coaching history. In summer of 2005, Izzo traveled to Kuwait to take part in "Operation Hardwood - Hoops With The Troops." Izzo was one of eight coaches and sports personalities coaching 13-member military basketball teams on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, from Aug. 27-31. Camp Arifjan defeated the other bases to win the championship under the direction of Coach Izzo. Izzo made a return trip to Kuwait in May 2006.
In 2003-04, MSU opened the season with a 5-7 mark after taking on one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in NCAA history. Rather than give up, Izzo and the Spartans rallied to win 12 of the next 15 games, finishing just one game out of first place in the Big Ten at 12-4. For the year, MSU posted an 18-12 mark. Michigan State became the first team in Big Ten history to lead the conference in scoring offense (71.3 ppg), field-goal percentage (.522), 3-point field-goal percentage (.434) and free-throw percentage (.777) in the same season.
On Feb. 4, 2004, MSU defeated Iowa, 89-72, as Izzo recorded the 200th victory of his Spartan career, becoming just the third coach in MSU history to accomplish that feat. He also became the eighth head coach in NCAA history to record 200 wins in his first nine seasons. Ten days later, Izzo became just the third coach in Big Ten history to record 100 league wins in his first nine seasons, joining Bob Knight and Gene Keady as MSU defeated Minnesota, 69-58, on Feb. 14.
The 2002-03 season was a study in perseverance. Izzo rallied his team to win the final four regular-season games and eight of the last 10 conference games to finish 10-6 in the Big Ten, good for third place in the league. Michigan State made even bigger noise during the NCAA Tournament. The No. 7 seed Spartans easily dismissed Colorado in the first round, setting up a matchup with the No. 2 seed Florida Gators. The Spartans shocked many experts with a 68-46 victory in the Gators' home state. In the Sweet 16, MSU defeated defending-national champion Maryland in a thrilling two-point game, before eventually falling to the No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns in the Lone Star State.
The Elite Eight appearance was the fourth for MSU between 1999 and 2003. During that time period, no other school made more than two trips. In fact, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, just four programs (Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina) have advanced to four Elite Eights in any five-year period.
The 2001-02 season may prove to be one of Izzo's finest. Despite losing 81 percent of the scoring load from 2000-01, and having three key players miss several games with injuries, Izzo led the Spartans to a 10-6 Big Ten mark (19-12 overall), finishing just one game out of first place. MSU won 10 of the last 13 regular-season games and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2000-01, Izzo earned NABC National Coach of the Year and District 11 Coach of the Year honors for leading Michigan State to its third straight Final Four and fourth straight regular-season Big Ten Championship. MSU became just the fourth school in Big Ten history to win four straight league titles.
MSU opened the season by winning its first 12 games to establish the best start in school history. On Dec. 25, 2000, the Spartans earned the top spot in The Associated Press Top 25, marking the first time they held the No. 1 position in the AP Poll since 1979. In Big Ten action, Michigan State posted a 13-3 record to win a share of the league crown. The Big Ten finale vs. Michigan marked Izzo's 100th Big Ten game. Through his first 100 games, Izzo posted a 72-28 mark, the fifth-best record in Big Ten history.
In the 2001 NCAA Tournament, Izzo guided the Spartans to a third-straight Final Four. For a third consecutive season, Michigan State earned a No. 1 seed. MSU won the first three games by double figures, establishing a record with nine straight NCAA Tournament victories by double digits. When MSU defeated Temple, 69-62, in the South Regional Final, the Spartans became just the ninth school to reach three-straight Final Fours and just the third since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. On the season, MSU finished with a 28-5 record.
Michigan State led the nation in rebound margin for the second straight season at +15.4 boards per game, tying the fifth-largest margin in Division I history (greatest since 1980). The Spartans also ranked 13th in the nation in scoring defense (61.8 ppg).
In 1999-2000, Michigan State captured the second NCAA Championship in school history and its third straight regular-season Big Ten Championship. MSU also won at least 30 games for the second straight season, posting a 32-7 mark, becoming just the second Big Ten school to accomplish that feat. The 65 wins over the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons was the greatest two-year total in the history of the Big Ten. The Spartans also repeated as Big Ten Tournament champions.
Izzo led MSU to consecutive Final Fours for the first time in school history. For his efforts, Izzo was named USBWA District V Coach of the Year and NABC District 11 Coach of the Year. Izzo also recorded his 100th career victory in a Jan. 11, 2000, 77-71 overtime win over Indiana in the Breslin Center.
For the second consecutive season, Michigan State earned a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament. After disposing of Valparaiso and Utah in Cleveland, the Spartans moved on to the Sweet 16 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where they recorded come-from-behind victories versus Syracuse and Iowa State. In the Final Four, MSU defeated Wisconsin for the fourth time that season. The Spartans then captured their second NCAA title in school history, defeating Florida, 89-76.
In 1998-99, Izzo directed the Spartans on a magical run to the program's first appearance in the NCAA Final Four since 1979. Michigan State posted a record of 33-5, establishing a school record for most wins in a season. For his efforts, Izzo was named the Basketball Times National Coach of the Year and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 11 Coach of the Year. Throughout the Big Ten season, Michigan State established itself as the class program of the conference. Izzo directed the school to its second-straight Big Ten title. The Spartans followed up a 15-1 Big Ten regular season by capturing their first Big Ten Tournament championship. The 15 league wins tied a school record for most victories in conference play, while the Spartans' 93.8 winning percentage established a school record.
Whereas MSU's success in 1998-99 was expected, the Spartans took the college basketball world by storm in 1997-98. Izzo became the first MSU coach to earn Associated Press National Coach of the Year honors, leading MSU to a 22-8 record and a share of the Big Ten title. The Spartans posted a 13-3 mark in conference, earning Izzo Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.
Over the course of the 1997-98 season, Izzo and his team finished the year ranked No. 10 nationally by USA Today/ESPN, marking the first time the Spartans had finished in the Top 10 since 1995. In addition to his AP award, Izzo was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball News and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Basketball Times selected Izzo as its Mideast Coach of the Year.
During Izzo's first season as head coach in 1995-96, he directed the Green and White to an overall slate of 16-16, including 9-9 in the Big Ten. Izzo recorded four wins over Top 25 teams. In 1996-97, Izzo guided the Green and White cagers to an overall mark of 17-12, including a Big Ten ledger of 9-9. Izzo led the Spartans to the second round of the NIT in each of his first two seasons.
In his 34th season as a member of the MSU coaching staff, Izzo has been with the Spartan program since taking a part-time assistant coaching position in 1983. An assistant coach with the Spartans from 1983-86, Izzo left MSU in May of 1986 to become the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Tulsa. But, on June 10 of the same year, Izzo returned to East Lansing when Spartan assistant Mike Deane left to become head coach at Siena College.
Known as a tireless worker both on the recruiting trail and in the office, his hard work and loyalty were rewarded in July 1990, when Jud Heathcote appointed him associate head coach. His dutiful efforts were further recognized when, on March 30, 1993, then-MSU Athletics Director Merrily Dean Baker recommended both a one-year contract extension for Heathcote through the 1994-95 season and that Izzo be appointed head coach upon Jud's retirement. The MSU Board of Trustees accepted both recommendations on April 9, 1994.
Izzo originally came to MSU from Northern Michigan, where he had been an assistant from 1979-83. He was named a part-time assistant at MSU in September 1983. When former assistant Edgar Wilson left in November 1983, Izzo became a full-time assistant.
Izzo played guard for NMU's basketball team from 1973-77, and was voted the team's MVP as a senior. He was also a third-team Division II All-America pick that year and established the Wildcat record for most minutes played in a season. Following his graduation from NMU in 1977, Izzo took over as head coach at Ishpeming High School and served in that position for the 1977-78 campaign.
A native of Iron Mountain, Michigan, Izzo and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci were Iron Mountain High School teammates in football, basketball, baseball and track. As college roommates at Northern Michigan, Izzo walked on to the basketball team, while Mariucci did the same with football. Both would go on to earn Division II All-America honors. Despite their busy schedules, they remain the closest of friends. For 10 years, they co-hosted a golf tournament in Iron Mountain to raise money for the community, including a fitness center for the high school.
In 1990, Izzo was inducted into the Northern Michigan University Hall of Fame and was selected as an inductee into the Upper Peninsula Hall of Fame during the summer of 1998. He was inducted into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
In 2001, Izzo received honorary degrees from both Northern Michigan and Michigan State, delivering the commencement address at both graduation ceremonies.
Izzo is also an active volunteer in the community. Among his many efforts, he is very active with Coaches Vs. Cancer, Volunteers of America, Sparrow Hospital and the Jimmy "V" Foundation. In 2009, Izzo was presented the Coaches Vs. Cancer Champion Award, recognizing his work and leadership in the fight to save lives from cancer.
Izzo was born Jan. 30, 1955. His family includes his wife, Lupe, daughter, Raquel, and son, Steven.