Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo is set to join the basketball elite after being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The announcement was made Monday, April 4 in Houston as part of Final Four Weekend.
“I’ve always told my players that they need to dream something before they can achieve it,” said Izzo. “Growing up in Iron Mountain, I had plenty of dreams, many of them seemed like long shots. But I’d be lying if I said being in the Hall of Fame was one of those dreams – it seemed too big. Even today, it’s surreal.
“As a coach, you can’t accomplish anything without the help of others. While I’m the one being recognized by the Hall of Fame, it’s only because of the work, support and advice from so many people that have touched both my life and my career. From the guidance and love of my family and friends, to the instruction and advice from my teachers and mentors, to the hard work and accomplishments of my coaches and players, and the great support from my administration, they’ve all made the ‘undreamable’ a reality.”
“On both a personal level, and on behalf of Michigan State University, I congratulate Tom Izzo on his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “As Spartans, we’ve known for a long time that Tom is a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame person, but today we are all proud as he receives the ultimate recognition for a remarkable, but far from finished, career.
“Everyone sees his passion for winning games, cutting down nets and hanging championship banners. They see his commitment to never cutting corners, relying instead on hard work and determination to accomplish great things. I’m fortunate in that I get to see Tom work equally as hard to develop young men, preparing them for success after basketball. His determination to see others succeed and reach their goals, be it within athletics or across campus, make him the ultimate ambassador for Michigan State University – a world class University built on land-grant values such as hard work, integrity and ingenuity. And that’s why today all of Team MSU salutes Coach Izzo on his landmark honor.”
“As a roommate and friend of Tom Izzo since the early 1980s, I have always admired and respected Coach’s ability to care and fight for people and issues beyond his area of responsibility,” said MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis. “He is passionate about the game of basketball, higher education and the people that commit their lives to the ideals of these pursuits. His attention to detail, concern about right and wrong, and the importance of personal accountability of everyone contribute to his success. With humility as his athletic director, emotion as his friend, and pride as a Spartan, I appreciate the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in recognizing Tom’s contributions to the game.”
In 21 seasons as a head coach, all at Michigan State, Izzo has put together a resume worthy of induction. He has guided Michigan State to seven Final Fours (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015), ranking fifth all-time and tied for third among active coaches. Since Izzo’s first season as head coach in 1995-96, no other coach has appeared in more than six. In guiding the Spartans to a seventh Final Four in 2015, Izzo became just the second coach to appear in seven Final Fours in a 17-year period since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Under Izzo’s watch, Michigan State has appeared in 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, establishing the longest streak in Big Ten history, and ranking as the third-longest active streak and the fourth longest of all time. Izzo’s 19 straight NCAA Tournaments are the fourth-longest streak for any coach in tournament history. His 46 NCAA Tournament victories rank tied for eighth all time. To put his success into perspective, of Izzo’s 19 trips to the NCAA Tournament, MSU has advanced at least to the second weekend 13 times, including nine Elite Eights, while losing its opening game just four times. Two other stats stand out in Izzo’s NCAA Tournament success: 1) MSU is 21-4 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend; 2) MSU is 13-10 as the lower-seeded team, as the 13 wins are the most in NCAA Tournament history for any coach.
In 33 total seasons at Michigan State, Izzo has cemented his name among the very best coaches in Big Ten history. Earlier this year, he passed former Purdue coach Gene Keady to become the second-winningest coach at a Big Ten school, trailing only Indiana’s Bob Knight. His 246 Big Ten wins rank third all-time behind just Knight and Keady. He is one of just five coaches to win seven regular-season Big Ten Championships (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2012), while his five Big Ten Tournament Championships (1999, 2000, 2012, 2014, 2016) are the most ever.
Izzo is an eight-time national coach of the year, capturing the award in 1998 (Basketball News, Associated Press, USBWA), 1999 (Basketball Times), 2001 (NABC), 2005 (Clair Bee), and 2012 (NABC, CBSSports.com). He is a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, capturing the award in 1998, 2009 and 2012.
In 21 seasons, Izzo has posted a record of 524-205. The 524 wins are the fifth-highest total for a coach through 21 seasons in NCAA history. This past November, Izzo won his 500th career game, becoming the eighth coach to accomplish the feat in his first 21 seasons. One of the things in which Izzo takes the most pride is the difficult schedule Michigan State has faced over the years. Since 1997-98, the year of Izzo’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State has faced a nation’s-best 205 ranked opponents.
Izzo has repeatedly said that one of his top priorities is seeing his players reach their goals. Individually, players have excelled under Izzo. Ten Spartans (Charlie Bell, Mateen Cleaves, Paul Davis, Draymond Green, Gary Harris, Drew Neitzel, Adreian Payne, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson and Denzel Valentine) have earned some form of All-America honors. Thirty different players have earned all-conference recognition, including 12 different first-team honorees, five Big Ten Players of the Year (Cleaves, Green, Kalin Lucas, Peterson, Valentine), and one Big Ten Freshman of the Year (Harris). Both Green and Valentine have earned National Player of the Year honors under Izzo.
Spartan student-athletes are prepared for life after Michigan State, both on and off the court. Under Izzo, 16 Spartans have been selected in the NBA Draft, including 15 since 2000, eight of whom were first rounders (Cleaves-2000 first round, Peterson-2000 first round, Richardson-2001 first round, Zach Randolph-2001 first round, Andre Hutson-2001 second round, Marcus Taylor-2002 second round, Erazem Lorbek-2005 second round, Shannon Brown-2006 first round, Maurice Ager-2006 first round, Davis-2006 second round, Goran Suton-2009 second round, Green-2012 second round, Adreian Payne-2014 first round, Harris-2014 first round, Branden Dawson-2015 second round). In addition, four undrafted Spartans (Bell, Alan Anderson, Lucas andKeith Appling) have also appeared in the NBA. Numerous other former Spartans have enjoyed lucrative professional careers playing overseas.
The Spartans have also experienced success in the classroom under Izzo. Chris Hill and Neitzel earned Academic All-America honors. Among players who have completed their eligibility under Izzo, 84 percent have left MSU with a degree.
Izzo arrived at Michigan State prior to the 1983-84 season. He was promoted to associate head coach in 1990, and on March 30, 1993, then-MSU Athletics Director Merrily Dean Baker recommended that Izzo be appointed head coach following Jud Heathcote’s retirement following the 1994-95 season. He came to MSU from Northern Michigan, where he served as an assistant at his alma mater from 1979-83. His coaching career began as head coach at Ishpeming High School in 1977-78.
Photo Courtesy Michigan State Athletics