Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucci have been good friends since their Iron Mountain High School days.
Before that? Not so good at the junior high level with Mariucci at the Catholic school and Izzo at the public
"We sort of hated each other," Mariucci quipped this week on the Tom Izzo Radio Show (WMIQ). "We had quite the rivalry (in a variety of sports)."
The dynamic duo later starred at Iron Mountain High School and Northern Michigan University. Izzo went on to coaching success with Michigan State basketball while Mariucci guided the San Francisco 49ers to the cusp of the Super Bowl.
"I miss it at times," Mariucci, now with the NFL Network, said of his coaching days. "I haven't been booed in eight years, and I love it.
"I have a good alternative (with the NFL Network). I'm just as busy but I do have an off-season."
"Mooch" is looking forward to Big Ten champion Michigan State meeting Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Coaching again in the Under Armour All-American High School Football Game at St. Petersburg, Fla., (3 p.m. ESPN) will prevent him from going to Pasadena.
"Mark (Dantonio) has done a great job," Mariucci said. "That should be some game."
Izzo continued the tradition of hauling out his accordion for the Christmas version of the "Tom Izzo Show." Mariucci recalled the early days of Izzo's musical career.
"Izzo didn't know if he wanted to coach or audition for the Lawrence Welk show," Mariucci joked.
By the way, Tommy has a big game today with Texas (3 p.m. CBS). These same Longhorns defeated North Carolina this week. The Tar Heels bumped off the Spartans in East Lansing this season.
"Texas has two warp-speed guards," Izzo said on the Tim Brando Show.
The Spartans are "pretty good" with a couple players banged up.
"We'll be very good with everybody healthy," Izzo said.
College basketball's new contact rules have Izzo perplexed. Referees have been instructed to call games much tighter than in the past.
"I'm still not a fan," said Izzo, indicating physical backcourt play has been cleaned up but underneath the hoop remains a rugged area ...
From David Letterman, via Norm Clarke in the Las Vegas Review Journal: "It's the holidays. Getting together with your family - on paper that's a wonderful idea." ...
Menominee High School boys basketball, coached by Iron Mountain's Pete Pericolosi, returns one starter in point guard Devon Harris.
"Harris can put teams on their heels with his cut-on-a-dime quickness and ability to slash to the hoop," wrote Tom (Richie) Kaser of The EagleHerald.
Menominee hosts the Class B district which involves Kingsford.
"I think we'll be very competitive," Pericolosi said. "We want to win the district at our place." ...
"Traveling by train: Daring duo survives trip to Las Vegas" has been filed under my blog at ironmountaindailynews.com.
It's there by popular demand - OK, whenever I run into Jack Underhill he asks about my train trip to Las Vegas with the late great Terry VanHaute.
That column originally appeared March 9, 2003 ...