Tom Izzo was succinct, appreciative, reflective and sincere over the course of his introspective 14-minute speech on the occasion of his Hall of Fame enshrinement Friday night in Springfield, Mass.
Izzo, who has 524 wins and counting at Michigan State, and has become one of the most successful and revered college coaches, was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Sheryl Swoopes and Jerry Reinsdorf.
“Tonight, other than the birth of my children, is the proudest and greatest achievement of my life,” Izzo said at the podium.
Plenty of Izzo’s former players, MSU legends like Steve Smith and Draymond Green, made the trip to see their coach receive his highest honor. Izzo had a slew of former assistants in the crowd as well, and some colleagues, too, including friend Gary Williams — whose Maryland team was defeated by MSU in dramatic March fashion in 2010 — was the man chosen to introduce Izzo.
Indian coach and former Izzo assistant Tom Crean was on hand, as was Steve Mariucci. Mariucci is a former NFL coach and current NFL Network analyst. He happens to be Izzo’s best friend. Izzo thanked him for the help in basketball scouting sessions — then busted chops.
“Although last year, you sucked,” Izzo joked, referencing Michigan State’s shocking upset to No. 15 Middle Tennessee in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Izzo recalled his early days at Michigan State, when he was a grad assistant at 29 years old and barely making enough money to get by. Izzo remembered his mentor and former boss, Jud Heathcote, fighting on his behalf to take over as coach at Michigan State in 1995. This came when Heathcote, who coached Magic Johnson and led MSU to a title in 1979, was an active Big Ten legend. Heathcote carried a lot of influence, and his endorsement of Izzo wound up being the best thing to ever happen to Sparty basketball.
“I never felt like he was looking over my shoulder, but I knew I could always count on him for advice, support — I needed it,” Izzo said. “To this day, he’s one of the first people I call whenever I have a tough decision in coaching or life. Nobody, and I mean nobody, cared more about the game of basketball than Jud. He’s a coach’s coach, a mentor and a friend. Any coaching success I’ve had is because of him.”
Izzo spoke of his late father, who died last December.
“Taught me one of the greatest gifts of all: how and why to work,” Izzo said of his dad. “Whether it was to feed and take care of your family, or to win national championships. … I’ve never viewed myself as the smartest coach in the game. Because of my father, I’ve always tried to make up for any shortcomings with hard work.”
Izzo’s 90-year-old mother was on hand to watch her son be inducted into basketball’s greatest museum.
“People always ask me my favorite moment in coaching,” Izzo said. “I’m sure they expect me to say the national championship or the Final Fours. But I always point the those yearly reunions in my basement. It shows you understand that my top priority is helping you live your dream. You have taken me to some incredible places and have given me memories to last a lifetime.”
Izzo’s enshrinement makes him the sixth active college basketball coach to be in the Hall of Fame. He joins Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (inducted in 2001), Jim Boeheim (2005) Roy Williams (2007), Rick Pitino (2013) and John Calipari (2015).
“Basketball has been everything to me,” Izzo said. “I’ve loved it since the fourth grade, when I used to shovel off my aunt’s driveway just so I could shoot hoops. Those who didn’t live in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) there was a lot of shoveling. Through basketball, I met Presidents, played on aircraft carriers. Been on the 50-yard line and played in front of the world’s largest crowd. The memories of playing on an airbase in Germany and coaching our troops in Kuwait will last a lifetime. The seven Final Fours and national championship are just frosting on the cake.”
For a quick look at Izzo over the years, here’s a video MSU posted on Instagram on Friday.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Tom Izzo thanks players, family, coaches in touching Hall of Fame speech