Tom Izzo enters his fifth season as head coach of the Michigan State basketball program, having established MSU as one of the premeir programs in the nation. Entering the 1999-2000 campaign, Izzo owns a career record of 88-41, but that only tells part of the special things that are happening under the two-time national coach of the year.
Under Izzo's guidance, the Spartans have finished off a decade which has seen Michigan State record 114 Big Ten wins, tied with Purdue for second most in the conference and only two behind Indiana. Over the past two seasons, MSU has a 28-4 league record and a winning percentage of 87.5, the highest in back-to-back seasons since the 1975 and '76 Indiana teams (1.000).
During the 1998-99 season, Izzo directed the Spartans on a magical run to the program's first appearance in the NCAA Final Four since 1979 and only the third in school history. Along the way, the team left its mark in the school's record books. Under Izzo's guidance, Michigan State posted a record of 33-5, setting a Big Ten Conference and school record for most wins in a season. MSU's 33 wins marked the ninth time that a Spartan team has recorded 20 or more victories and the second time under Izzo. 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.
The road to St. Petersburg, Fla., began with the first and second rounds of the Midwest Region in Milwaukee, Wis. After an easy first-round victory over Mount St. Mary's, MSU defeated Mississippi, 74-66, to advance to the school's second-consecutive Sweet 16. In the Midwest Region semifinal game in St. Louis, Mo., MSU earned a hard fought 54-46 victory over Oklahoma that set up a meeting with perenial power Kentucky for a trip to the Final Four. After trailing Kentucky at the half, Michigan State would battle back to a 73-66 victory and a berth in the Final Four. Although Izzo and the Spartans would eventually lose to No. 1-ranked Duke, they had established Michigan State as a basketball powerhouse.
Throughout the 1998-99 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 and the eighth in school history. 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.
Izzo's Spartans were equally impressive at the national level. Big things were expected as the Spartans were ranked in the preseason top five by both major polls. By the end of the regular season Michigan State held a No. 2 ranking by both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN. MSU would finish the year ranked third. This was the highest showing by a Spartan team since the 1978-79 squad earned a No. 1 ranking. Nationally, Michigan State was No. 2 in rebound margin (+9.3) and ninth in scoring defense (59.5). In addition, the Green and White ranked among the nation's best in scoring margin (12th, 12.2) and field goal percentage (21st, .473).
Whereas MSU's success in 1998-99 was expected, the Spartans caught the college basketball world by storm in 1997-98. Izzo became the first Michigan State coach to earn Associated Press National Coach of the Year honors while 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 Conference Coach of the Year honors.
Over the course of the 1997-98 season, Izzo and his team recorded six victories over teams ranked in the top 25 and 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.
In 1998, Izzo made his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. The Spartans entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East Region. In Hartford, Conn., Michigan State recorded victories over Eastern Michigan and No. 8 Princeton, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1990. In the East Regional semifinal contest, MSU fell to No. 1 and eventual Final Four participant North Carolina.
Over the past two seasons, Izzo has compiled an impressive 55-13 record. A quick look at other stats further demonstrates the Spartans' success over the past two years: 28-4 in the Big Ten, 26-3 at the Breslin Center, 17-9 against Top 25 teams, 9-3 in postseason play and 6-2 in the NCAA Tournament
Despite the success, Izzo continues to push the Michigan State basketball program to higher levels, while remaining grounded in the fundamentals that have led to the recent success.
"I still look at our team as the hunter because we haven't accomplished our goals," explained Izzo. "We've been near the top, but we haven't gotten there yet. To reach the top, we'll have to maintain the same principles and foundation that we've had for the past few seasons. We can't deviate from our thinking and all of a sudden start acting like an offensive team, while forgetting about our defense, rebounding and camaraderie. There are so many areas to developing a good program and we've only begun. We haven't done anything until it's maintained over a few-year period. In five-to-seven years, we'll be able to look and see what type of program we've established."
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, good for a sixth-place tie. With one of the youngest starting lineups in the Big Ten, Izzo guided the Spartans to their ninth straight trip to postseason play and second straight NIT appearance, where they advanced to the second round. Included in Izzo's wins were triumphs over NCAA teams Indiana, Wisconsin (twice) and Iowa. During the summer of 1997, Tom coached the Big Ten All-Star Team in a six-game tour of Europe.
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 a 9-9 effort in the Big Ten. Despite facing the unenviable task of replacing perhaps the country's best backcourt from the 1994-95 season in Shawn Respert and Eric Snow, Izzo recorded wins over top 25 teams on four occasions while leading the program to its eighth straight postseason appearance, a berth in the NIT, where the Spartans advanced to the second round. The rookie mentor saw his team rank No. 26 in the nation in scoring defense (64.2 ppg) and No. 12 in rebound margin (+7.2).
Now entering his 17th season as a member of the Michigan State 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
Since then, he has been the catalyst in the resurgence of the MSU program. Regarded as one of the country's top recruiters, he is 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, 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.
"I had hoped that someday I would get a chance to coach at a place like Michigan State because I've always loved it here," said Izzo on becoming the 16th head basketball coach in school history. "This is the type of town, the type of school that I dreamed of being at. Now, I'm going to work as hard as I can to succeed and continue the success that we have had here."
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, Mich., Izzo and current San Francisco 49ers 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 current busy schedules, they remain the closest of friends. Each year, they co-host a golf tournament in Iron Mountain to raise money for the community.
In October, 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.
Coach Izzo currently serves on the John R. Wooden Award Board of Governors. He has also served as honorary chairman of the Memory Walk for the past two seasons with proceeds from that event going to combat Alzheimer's Disease.
Izzo was born January 30, 1955. His family includes his wife, Lupe, and daughter, Raquel.
THE SPARTANS ALL-TIME UNDER IZZO
AT HOME: 49-12 ON ROAD/NEUTRAL: 39-29 LEADING AT HALF: 74-9 TRAILING AT HALF: 11-30 TIED AT HALF: 3-2 50% OR BETTER FROM FIELD: 36-4 LESS THAN 50% FROM FIELD: 52-37 OPP. 50% OR BETTER FROM FIELD: 13-17 OPP. LESS THAN 50% FROM FIELD: 75-24 MSU OUTREBOUNDS OPPONENT: 79-26 OPPONENT OUTREBOUNDS MSU: 7-15 REBOUNDS ARE EQUAL: 2-0 OUTSHOOT OPP. FROM FIELD: 69-5 OUTSHOT FROM FIELD: 18-36 SHOOT SAME FROM THE FIELD: 1-0 MSU WITH MORE TURNOVERS: 39-32 OPP. WITH MORE TURNOVERS: 38-9 TURNOVERS ARE EQUAL: 11-0 GAMES DECIDED BY 1-5 PTS: 20-13 GAMES DECIDED BY 6-10 PTS: 12-8 GAMES DECIDED BY 11-15 PTS: 27-11 GAMES DECIDED BY 16-PLUS PTS: 29-9 SCORING 80-PLUS POINTS: 25-2 SCORING 75-79 POINTS: 12-0 SCORING 70-74 POINTS: 13-5 SCORING LESS THAN 70 PTS: 38-34 ALLOWING 60 OR FEWER PTS: 55-5 ALLOWING 61-64 PTS: 7-3 ALLOWING 65-70 PTS: 18-10 ALLOWING 71-75 PTS: 4-7 ALLOWING 76-80 PTS: 2-8 ALLOWING 80-PLUS PTS: 2-8 OVERTIME GAMES: 1-3STATISTICAL PERFORMANCES OF IZZO's TEAMS IN THE BIG TEN
Opp. Scoring SEASON Place FG% FG% FT% Margin Scoring Defense 1996 7th 6th (.418) 4th (.417) 10th (.652) 1st (+4.56) 11th (59.06) 2nd (61.56) 1997 t-6th 5th (.440) 9th (.459) 10th (.617) 2nd (+5.55) 8th (64.94) 4th (67.17) 1998 t-1st t-7th (.445) 3rd (.420) 8th (.710) 1st (+6.4) 5th (73.6) 3rd (64.6) 1999 1st t-1st (.458) 8th (.443) 4th (.738) 1st (+7.9) 4th (70.6) 3rd (61.2)IZZO ALL-TIME RECORD vs. OPPONENTS
OPP W L PCT Alabama 1 0 1.000 Arkansas 1 0 1.000 Central Florida 1 0 1.000 Cent. Michigan 1 1 .500 Chaminade 1 0 1.000 Cleveland State 2 0 1.000 Connecticut 0 1 .000 Detroit 0 3 .000 Duke 0 2 .000 E. Tennessee St. 4 0 1.000 Eastern Illinois 1 0 1.000 Eastern Michigan 1 0 1.000 Evansville 2 0 1.000 Florida State 0 1 .000 Fresno State 0 1 .000 Gonzaga 1 0 1.000 Geo. Washington 1 0 1.000 Idaho State 1 0 1.000 Illinois 6 3 .667 Illinois-Chicago 2 1 .667 Indiana 4 2 .667 Iowa 6 1 .857 Kansas State 2 0 1.000 Kent 1 0 1.000 Kentucky 1 0 1.000 Louisville 1 1 .500 Michigan 3 5 .375 Minnesota 5 4 .556 Mississippi 1 0 1.000 Mount St. Mary's 1 0 1.000 North Carolina 0 2 .000 N. Carolina Ash 1 0 1.000 NE Louisiana 1 0 1.000 Northwestern 6 1 .857 Ohio State 5 0 1.000 Oklahoma 1 0 .000 Oklahoma St. 0 1 .000 Oakland 1 0 1.000 Penn State 5 1 .833 Pepperdine 1 0 1.000 Princeton 1 0 1.000 Purdue 3 4 .428 Santa Clara 0 1 .000 South Florida 1 0 1.000 Temple 0 2 .000 Tulsa 1 0 1.000 Washington 1 0 1.000 Weber State 1 0 1.000 Western Michigan 1 0 1.000 Wisconsin 6 3 .667 Wright State 1 0 1.000