Men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo grateful for Michigan State Spartans’ success in trying year
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo struggled with tears of joy as Michigan State knocked off top-seeded Duke to reach the Final Four. He was emotional again only a few hours later when fans packed the Breslin Center to welcome the gritty Spartans back to campus.
This season might be remembered as the best coaching job in Izzo’s long career at Michigan State, reaching his eighth Final Four with a short-handed team that lost two underclassmen to the pros last year. It has also been an emotional time for the Hall of Fame coach.
Last season, some wondered if the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and its deep ties to Michigan State would drive Izzo away as he answered questions about the behavior of some of his former players. Years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks tried to lure him to the NBA and other college programs have taken runs at hiring him.
Each time there was a chance for him to go, Izzo stayed at the school that hired him as a part-time assistant in 1983 and promoted him to head coach in 1995.
And for that, he’s thankful to still be on the banks of the Red Cedar River.
“There’s nothing like this,” Izzo told The Associated Press earlier this week while walking across his program’s practice court. “I haven’t been in the NBA Finals so I can’t say I know everything.
“But the number of people you impact is off the charts here. If that many alums are that excited, it really does excite me and makes my day. That’s why I coach. I coach for our players and our alums.”
Izzo will coach one more game, and maybe two, to close out his 24th season in charge of a solid program he has turned into one of the best in college basketball. Second-seeded Michigan State faces third-seeded Texas Tech on Saturday night, playing for a spot in the championship game Monday night against the winner of the Virginia-Auburn game.
Izzo has led the Spartans to the Final Four for an eighth time, a total no coach or program can match since 1999.