Inspiring. Authentic. Real. Coach. Mentor. Counselor. Teacher. Leader. Irreplaceable. OG.
Those are the words used to describe long-time Michigan State men’s basketball assistant coach Mike Garland by some of his former players.
In a career which has spanned more than four decades, starting as a high school coach in 1977, and includes 22 years with the Michigan State program, Garland announced his retirement.
Garland served as the Special Assistant to Head Coach Tom Izzo during the 2021-22 season, but has been on the MSU coaching staff for 22 years, starting in 1996, and helped coach the Spartans to the 2000 National Championship, seven Final Fours, 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, six Big Ten Tournament Championships and 10 Big Ten Regular Season titles.
Statement from Mike Garland
“I’ve been blessed in my life to be provided many great opportunities, but among the best has been the opportunity to interact with the great young men who have been part of the Michigan State men’s basketball program and to do so alongside my friend and loving brother that I can’t say enough about, Tom Izzo, along with other fellow coaches during my time here.
“It is with great joy that I’m stepping away and announcing my retirement from Michigan State. That may seem odd but my absences won’t remove the love of Michigan State from my heart or their love for me from their hearts. I’ll always be a part of this program and will always carry the relationships and friendships I’ve made here with me.
“I’ve worked alongside so many great people here, but the part of the job I’ve always cared for most has been the opportunity to work with young men and impact their lives, each of whom I wish I could mention by name.
“There have been a lot of successful moments on the court here and that’s what Tom has built, one of the best college basketball programs in the country. It’s been an honor to be a part of those championships and Final Fours and to see so many of our players go on to play professionally. I’ve been just as proud to see so many of our players have success in the business world and to become fathers with wonderful families.
“You don’t get the chance to work with a friend for so long like I have with Tom Izzo since we met at Northern Michigan in the early 1970s. He gave me the opportunity to be a part of this program when he became the head coach in 1996 and there is nothing I regret about the decision.
“My wife, Cynthia, and my family have grown up here and Michigan State is a very special place and will always be part of us.
“I always thought that Chief (Tom) and I would share the day of our departure together. And of course I could have given him a few more years to make that dream come true, like all the others we have shared together. But after several months of thought and reflection, while sitting at the hospital bedside of my son (Michael Ray), I decided it was best for my family, while I’m in great health, to give up the game I love to pour more of myself into my wife, my children and eight grandchildren.”
Head Coach Tom Izzo on Mike Garland
“Words can’t truly express what Mike Garland mean to me. We’ve been friends since we met the first night in college and basically have lived the rest of our professional lives together. To say he’s just my friend doesn’t even scratch the surface of our relationship. He’s my brother for life.
“At the same time, we all know that life moves on and this is a great time for Mike to step into a deserved retirement after a tremendous career as a leader in college basketball. The impact he has had on not only this program, but also on nearly every young man he’s met while coaching in this sport is incredible. To say that Mike Garland was just a basketball coach would be a disservice. More than anything, Mike has been a teacher and a counselor who has provided life lessons to everyone who came through the doors at the Breslin Center, from players to managers to coaches to staff and definitely to me.
“Mike, his wonderful wife Cynthia and their beautiful family, Simone, Quentin and Michael Ray, have been a big part of our Spartan Family and I thank each of them for what they have done for us.
“If a friend is supposed to have your back, I always knew Mike had mine. Whether in college on the court together, driving his wife to the hospital when she delivered Quentin or just going for all the jogs through campus. Mike will be missed but never forgotten.
“It will be hard for me to come into the office at 7:30 every morning where Mike and I would sit in my office and just talk and not have him there. It will be hard for me to be out of the court or to look down to our bench and not hear his voice or see him there, but Mike Garland‘s presence at Michigan State is going to be felt for a long, long time.”
Mike Garland‘s Career
Garland returned for his second stint on the Spartan bench prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, having previously served as an assistant coach for seven seasons from 1996 to 2003. Garland has been on staff for every Big Ten Championship the Spartans have won under Izzo. He excelled in self-scouting and individual player improvement. His instruction led to six Spartans being selected in the NBA Draft during a three-year span from 2000-02. In total, he has worked with 18 Spartans who have been selected in the draft.
In 2006-07, Garland served as associate head coach at SMU under Matt Doherty. Prior to that, he was head coach for three seasons at Cleveland State, posting a 23-60 record, while increasing the Vikings’ win total each season. In his second season, the Vikings improved by six wins in Horizon League play, which was the fifth-best improvement in league history at the time.
Before he became a college coach, Garland enjoyed a successful nine-year stint as varsity head coach at Belleville High School. During that time, he posted a career record of 153-49 (.757) while earning numerous coaching honors. He was selected as the Associated Press 1993-94 Michigan High School Coach of the Year, while also being named the Michigan Mega Red Conference Coach of the Year. Garland, who coached three players to first-team all-state honors during his tenure at Belleville, was named The Detroit News All-Metro West Coach of the Year in 1990-91, while being selected as the All-Suburban Coach of the Year during the same campaign by the Detroit Free Press. His Belleville teams won six Mega Red Conference championships, four district titles and advanced to the state tournament quarterfinals in 1991. He spent five seasons as an assistant at Belleville before being named head coach.
Garland started his coaching career in 1977 with a two-year stint as an assistant basketball coach at Cody High in Detroit. Garland then headed to private business for several years before his desire to teach led him back into coaching as the junior varsity coach at Belleville High in 1982.
Garland earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and community recreation from Northern Michigan in 1977. While at NMU, he was the recipient of the Minority Student Academic Achievement Award. Izzo and Garland were teammates on the Wildcats basketball squad.
Garland’s family includes his wife, Cynthia, daughter, Simone, and sons Quentin and Michael Ray, and grandchildren Simone, LaNyla, Jacqueline, Amanda, Jeremiah, Helen, Isaiah and Mikey