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Tom Izzo: The Reason to Believe in Sparty

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Tom Izzo should sit back right now and be happy with his career up until this point. One of the best coaches in Division I history, Izzo has lead the Spartans to 7 Final Fours in his 21 year head coaching career. A coach must be a fantastic leader to lead your team to a Final Four 33% of the time. To put his success in perspective, Izzo has 5 less Final Four appearances than Mike Krzyzewski, but Coach K has been coaching 22 seasons longer than Izzo. Even if the team just sneaks in the tournament, like some thought they did this year, the Spartans are always one of the worst possible match-ups to have in March. I truly believe that Izzo still does not get the respect that he warrants across the nation, and, if I was a recruit, my first stop would have to be with Izzo in Lansing.

Though he has only won one National Championship in 2000, Izzo is, in my opinion the second best coach in the country, behind only Coach K. Many people could argue that John Calipari is a better coach, but, while I agree that he is a great coach with a great coaching background, he always has the best recruiting classes in the country, so he should be able to win games. Last year, according to 247Sports, Izzo and the Spartans had the 50th ranked recruiting class in the country, behind the likes of South Carolina, Illinois, and Creighton, teams that didn’t even make the tournament. His best player in that recruiting class was Lourawls Nairn Jr., who has looked very impressive at times this season. Though having a Top 50 recruiting class is impressive, it is in no way as impressive as Duke and Kentucky, who had the number one and two recruiting classes, respectively.

Izzo was born in Iron Mountain. Michigan, where he became best friends with former NFL coach, Steve Mariucci. In high school, he played football and ran track, but developed a love for his true passion: basketball. He played his college ball at Northern Michigan University, where he was named a Division II All-American during his senior season. After graduation, he became an assistant at his alma mater for 5 years, until he was hired by Michigan State to the same role. In 1991, Jud Heathcote, the head coach at MSU, promoted Izzo to associate head coach. After the 1994-1995 season when Heathcote retired, Izzo was named the head coach by the school. The rest is history.

Izzo has won the most games in Michigan State basketball history, and, most notably, has received invitations to the past 18 NCAA Tournaments. Only two coaches have been invited to more consecutive tournaments; the late, great Dean Smith with 23 and Coach K with 20. Tom Izzo is with elite company with his accomplishments, though it seems that he is overlooked sometimes on the greatest coach debate. Andy Katz, a college basketball analyst at ESPN, actually deemed that Michigan State was the best college basketball program in the country from the years 1998-2007. I would argue that Izzo and the Spartans have been the best basketball program in the country from 1998-2015. Mr. March, a name Izzo has rightfully earned with his teams’ performances in March, has set up one of the strongest and most consistent programs in the nation. He also sets up his players for success at the next level, as 6 of his former players are active in the NBA now, most notably Zach Randolph and Draymond Green.

Many people have called the 2015 Michigan State team’s run in the tournament has been a fluke, as they are not as good as they have been playing. I argue that this is no fluke. Michigan State has been led by players such as Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine, who are by no means bonafide stars. With one of the deepest lineups and, in my opinion, the most underrated coach in the nation still, this team was destined to make a deep run in the tournament. They always do and Tom Izzo, not the players, is the main reason for that.

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