All Hail, Master Izzo
- Updated: March 28, 2010
Different reporters may find a plethora of attractive stories to tell surrounding this year’s Final Four participants. Horizon heroes going home. The Dookies returning to the stage they were once fixtures. Huggins leading his alma mater to exalted hoops ground. To me, there is only one story. His name is Tom Izzo.
I don’t mean this in a flippant way, but all those other plot lines pale in comparison for me. Tom Izzo, and his Michigan St. Spartans, has to be the story. Forget any stats or empirical evidence. All I know is that every year I look up, it seems Michigan St. is there competing in the latter rounds of the tournament with the best in the country.
Their recruiting classes and star power don’t always compete. Oftentimes, their regular season record doesn’t quite stack up. Almost every year I find myself saying out loud…this certainly isn’t one of those “top-flight” Spartans teams of years past. And yet, time and again, there is Izzo…standing on the sideline, dictating the same style of play with a new cast of characters…and pushing deeper and deeper into March.
I’m just a lover of college hoops. A typical fan like so many others. I have never patrolled a sideline or come near one. Yet, I find myself watching games, seasons and NCAA showdowns year-after-year and thinking…is this guy not hands-down the best coach in America? Forget about whether Izzo has the five-star recruits. It feels like he gets the absolute most out of all the parts. This year he lost his best player and Big Ten Player of the Year in the Elite Eight. No matter, his 6th Final Four ticket is punched.
You want straight facts and numbers? The longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten, Izzo has won over 70% of his games. The Spartans have reached the Dance 13 straight seasons. Of those trips, the Final Four has been in their travel plans six times — including a national title in 2000. His tourney record? 35-11, second to only Coach K. Among active coaches, Izzo is now second in Final Four appearances (Roy Williams has seven).
The numbers tell a compelling story, but watching Izzo’s teams is all you need to watch to become a believer. If Tom Izzo isn’t the best coach in college basketball, I’m open to hearing other candidates. Make way for Sparty.