Never has the term “Legend of Coaching” been more applicable than for this year’s honoree, Tom Izzo of Michigan State. His amazing list of on-the-court accomplishments includes the 2000 NCAA National Championship, six regular-season Big Ten Championships, two Big Ten Tournament titles, six Final Four appearances, four National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-best 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Coach Izzo has led his team to six Final Fours in the last 13 seasons and his stability and consistency are a benchmark for coaches around the country. The 2010-11 season marked Izzo’s 28th with the Spartans, where he posts an impressive career record of 378-160 (.703). He is the longest serving active Big Ten men’s basketball head coach.
The Legends of Coaching Award pays tribute to Coach Wooden in that it honors coaches who serve the community, the coaching profession and their student-athletes on and off the court. Tom Izzo is such a coach. Coach Izzo has graduated more than 80% of his players who completed their eligibility at Michigan State. In the last 11 years, 33 Spartans have earned their undergraduate degrees.
In the Lansing community, Coach Izzo is very active with Coaches vs. Cancer, Sparrow Hospital, the Jimmy “V” Foundation and the Catholic Social Services/St. Vincent Home for Children. In 2009, Izzo was presented the Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award, recognizing his work and leadership in the fight to save lives from cancer. He is also a leader among his peers, serving as the NABC President beginning in April 2010, while also serving on the John R. Wooden Award Board of Governors and the USA Basketball Collegiate Committee.
Coach Izzo has also emerged as a teacher, not only to his players, but also his assistant coaches, following in the footsteps of his own mentor, longtime Spartan Head Coach Jud Heathcote. Four current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Stan Heath (South Florida), Brian Gregory (Dayton), and Doug Wojcik (Tulsa). Current assistant Mike Garland spent three seasons as head coach at Cleveland State following an initial seven-year stint at MSU. Stan Joplin was also head coach at Toledo for 12 seasons. Jim Boylen, a former Izzo assistant, was the head coach at Utah for four seasons.
After earning third-team All American honors his senior year at Northern Michigan University (1977), Coach Izzo began his coaching career at Ishpeming High School in 1978. He then served as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 1979-83 before being hired as an assistant coach with the Spartans from 1983-86. He was promoted to the top assistant coach job at Michigan State in June 1986, and took over as the program’s head coach in 1996 when Heathcote retired. Among the players Izzo has coached as a head coach or assistant include former Wooden All Americans Charlie Bell (2001), Mateen Cleaves (2000 and 1999), Morris Peterson (2000), Shawn Respert (1995), and Steve Smith (1990 and 1991).
In 2001, Coach Izzo received honorary degrees from both Northern Michigan and Michigan State, delivering the commencement address at both graduation ceremonies. His family includes his wife, Lupe, daughter, Raquel, and son, Steven, all of whom are here at the Wooden Award Gala this evening.