Childhood & Early Life
Tom Izzo was born on January 30, 1955, in Iron Mountain, Michigan, to Dorothy and Carl Izzo. Theirs was a middle class family. He was raised in his hometown and grew up with his two sisters.
Tom attended the ‘Iron Mountain High School,’ where he and Steve Mariucci became great friends. Steve later became a popular ‘National Football League’ (NFL) coach. Both Tom and Steve played basketball growing up.
Tom also played baseball and track, apart from being one of the main players on his school’s basketball team.
Tom enrolled at ‘Michigan State University.’ He had Steve there as his roommate. Tom showed great promise early in his life when he became one of the star point guards of his college team in the mid-1970s. His performance reached its pinnacle when he was in the senior year, when he made a record in minutes played. His exceptional performance during his final college season saw him winning a place in the ‘Division II All-American.’
However, despite being in love with the game, Tom did not have great ambitions of building a career as an ‘NFL’ player. Coaching intrigued him more, and following his graduation from the college, he began looking for ways to begin his coaching career.
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Tom began his coaching career as the head coach for basketball at the ‘Ishpeming High School’ and remained there for a season. He knew that he needed to improve his game if he ever wanted to coach a major team. He thus began assisting the head coach at the ‘Northern Michigan University’ in 1979.
After working there for many years, in 1986, he moved on to assist the head coach at the ‘University of Tulsa.’ Sometime later, he rejoined ‘Michigan State’ to assist Jud Heathcote, when the then-coach, Mike Deane, had moved to another college. Before the 1990 season, Tom’s position was elevated, and he became the associate to the head coach of the team.
Jud retired at the beginning of the 1995–1996 season, and upon his recommendation, Tom was made the head coach of ‘Michigan State University.’
His first two seasons as the head coach were just strictly above average as far as the team’s performance was concerned. The team finished at the sixth and seventh spots, respectively, in the ‘Conference’ and failed to make it to the ‘NCAA’ tournaments.
However, the third season came with a big success, as the team ended with a final score of 13–3 and won the ‘Big Ten Championship’ title. It was also the first of the 22 consecutive ‘NCAA’ appearances that the team later went on to make. It was the third-longest streak ever made by a ‘Division I’ team in the ‘NCAA.’
The next season brought more success for the team. They registered a win in the ‘Big Ten Tournament’ finals in 1999. The team also made it to their first ‘Final Four,’ which was the first of the three ‘Final Four’ appearances that the team would go on to make. Thus, Tom became the only one of the three coaches since 1985 to secure the streak.
By 2000, the team’s performance had improved greatly. They took it further as they ended up winning their second ‘NCAA Championship’ ever. This was when most of the players who were on the team when Tom joined as a coach had moved on after earning their degrees.
Over the next few years, the team delivered remarkable performances across the college basketball events in the country. As a head coach, Tom secured his 341st win in November 2009, making himself the coach with the most number of wins in the history of the university.
Soon, he was offered the position of the head coach by several ‘NFL’ teams, such as the ‘Atlanta Hawks,’ the ‘Chicago Bulls,’ and the ‘Cleveland Cavaliers.’ He almost took up the job with the ‘Cavaliers’ but refused to do so later. He also stated that he would never leave ‘Michigan State.’
In 2009, he came close to winning the second ‘NCAA Championship’ of his coaching career but lost to North Carolina in an extremely close encounter.
His coaching style consisted of angry shouting at his players and his focus on discipline. He was named the fifth-angriest coach by ‘USA Today Sports’ in 2013, an honor that Tom gladly accepted.
In November 2015, he crossed yet another milestone when he registered his 500th win with his team. A few months later, he attained the second place after his 513th win. He now he remains only behind Bob Knight.
In March 2016, when his team was the top contender for the ‘NCAA Cup,’ ‘Michigan State University’ lost to one of the weakest teams in the tournament, ‘Middle Tennessee.’
In October 2016, he was honored with a ‘Dean Smith Award,’ which is given to the best coaches in the American college basketball scene.
He was then inducted into the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’ in September 2016.
He has also coached the American national basketball team during the 2003 ‘Pan American Games.’