Izzo honored at Final Four

College Basketball

MINNEAPOLIS — One of only five coaches in history to lead a team to the NCAA Final Four eight times or more, Michigan State University’s Tom Izzo received the Metropolitan Award for long and outstanding service to men’s college basketball Sunday night.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches presented the storied award, first given in 1941, to Izzo at the annual AT&T NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show at the Main Auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Izzo, whose team won the NCAA championship in 2000, fell to Texas Tech in this year’s NCAA Final Four semifinals. MSU’s other Final Four appearances were in 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2015. Twenty-three of Izzo’s 24 MSU recruiting classes have played in the Final Four.

The longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten, Izzo succeeded his mentor, Jud Heathcote, in 1995 and has been an integral part of the program for 36 years, including 24 as head coach.

During that time the Spartans have won nine regular season Big Ten titles and have a string of 22 straight NCAA tournament berths.

Izzo won his 600th game this season and now has a career record of 606 wins and 231 losses, a .724 winning percentage.

The MSU coach, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, has been a leader in college basketball, having served on the NABC board of directors including a term as president and has been a member of the USA Basketball Collegiate Committee.

A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Izzo and his college roommate, former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci, have raised funds for their alma mater, Iron Mountain High School, including the construction of a fitness center.

Mariucci presented the Metropolitan Award to Izzo, recalling how their friendship began in high school after being rivals in youth football, basketball and baseball.

“I grew up on the Northside of Iron Mountain and he grew up on the Westside,” Mariucci said. “I remember guarding Izzo (in the fifth grade) when he was dribbling behind his back and through his legs. He was Ernie DiGregorio before Ernie DiGregorio.”

DiGregorio was a star basketball player at Providence in the early 1970s.

“Tom believes that discipline is a form of love, and holding his players accountable are life lessons that will serve them well for a long, long time,” Mariucci said. “Michigan State has one of the highest graduation rates in the country. He loves the student-athlete and they love him back.

“In my humble opinion, Tom Izzo is one of the finest coaches at any level in any sport in this fine country.”

Tom’s 92-year-old mother Dorothy also attended the ceremony.

In 2001, Izzo received honorary degrees from Northern Michigan and Michigan State.

Over eight decades, the most famous names in men’s college basketball have been honored with the award, including Adolph Rupp, Clair Bee, Henry Iba, John Wooden and Dave Gavitt.