Izzo outlasts another Big Ten coaching victim
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Izzo outlasts another Big Ten coaching victim

The 49 names over 24 years spells out Michigan State's success and stability

Photo: 1) Tom Izzo; 2) Tim Miles; 3) Clem Haskins; 4) Tom Izzo with Mateen Cleaves at 2000 NCAA final

49 and counting.

I wondered about a number representing Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo's success and stability spanning 24 seasons. A total besides his 22 straight NCAA trips in 24 seasons, seven Final Fours, nine Elite Eights, 14 Sweet Sixteens, nine Big Ten regular-season championships, six conference tournament titles and 604 career victories with a 2000 national title.

How many Big Ten coaches have come and gone?

The number grew to 49 and counting on Tuesday once Nebraska fired Tim Miles. That’s Manhattan revolving door of guys the Izzone has greeted in or out of the club.

The grinder from Iron Mountain has grown from Yooper to whippersnapper to wunderkind to elder statesman.

And 49 only counts the Big Ten seasons against Izzo for recent members Nebraska (2011-12) and both Maryland and Rutgers (2014-15).  Otherwise the number bumps to 57 dating to Izzo’s first season, 1995-96.

Miles’ dismissal after seven seasons highlights how hard it has been for the rest of the Big Ten to find the next Izzo. When MIles arrived at Nebraska, he was a hot mid-major name, having guided Colorado State to its first NCAA win in 23 seasons. Nebraska was about to open a palace, Pinnacle Bank Arena, to help with recruiting.

Miles guided Nebraska to the NCAA in only his second season but not again the past five years. It ended for him the same as other hot names tasked with rebuilding a Big Ten program.

Below is a list of each school’s turnover up to the current coach and his completed seasons, although not all were fired. Each school’s overall NCAA record among compared to Izzo the past 24 years is noted, too.

The list represents basketball disappointment Michigan State fans have been spared for nearly a quarter-century under Izzo.


7: Lou Henson, 1996; Lon Kruger, 2000; Bill Self, 2003; Bruce Weber, 2012; John Groce, 2017/Jamal Walker finished 2017; Brad Underwood, second season.

NCAA trips: 13 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: six and counting.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 4/2.

Final Fours/national titles: 1/0.


6: Bob Knight, 2000; Mike Davis, 2006; Kelvin Sampson, 2008/Dan Dakich finished 2008; Tom Crean, 2017; Archie Miller, second season.

NCAA trips: 15 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: three, with this the second time and counting.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 4/1.

Final Fours/national titles: 1/0.


4: Tom Davis, Steve Alford, Todd Lickliter, Fran McCaffery, ninth season.

NCAA trips: 10 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: seven.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 1/0.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0.


4: Steve Fisher, 1997; Brian Ellerbe, 2001; Tommy Amaker, 2007; John Beilein, 12th season.

NCAA trips: 10 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: 10.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 5/3.

Final Fours/national champion: 2/0.


5: Clem Haskins, 1999; Don Monson, 2007/Jim Molarni finished 2007; Tubby Smith, 2013; Richard Pitino, sixth season.

NCAA trips: 8 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: five.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 3/2.

Final Fours/national titles: 1/0.


4: Ricky Byrdsong, 1997; Kevin O’Neill, 2000; Bill Carmody, 2013; Chris Collins, sixth season.

NCAA trips: 1 of 24. Longest Izz era NCAA drought: Northwestern is in a two-year drought since the Wildcats made the 2016-17 NCAA field for the first time in program history.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 0/0.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0.


4: Randy Ayers, 1997; Jim O’Brien, 2004; Thad Matta, 2017; Chris Holmann, second season.

NCAA trips: 15 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought : three, two times.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 6/4.

Final Fours/NCAA runner-up/national titles: 3/0.

PENN STATE, joined Big 1992-93

3: Jerry Dunn, 2003; Ed DeChellis, 2011; Patrick Chambers, eighth season.

NCAA trips: 3 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: nine, with a current streak of eight.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 1/0.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0.


2: Gene Keady, 2005; Matt Painter, 14th season.

NCAA trips: 17 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: three.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 8/1.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0.


4: Dick Bennett, 2001/Brad Soderberg finished 2001; Bo Ryan, 2016/Greg Gard finished 2016; Greg Gard, third season.

NCAA trips: 17 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: three.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 10/4.

Final Fours/national titles: 3/0.

Three recent Big Ten additions, with two numbers listed. They represent the school’s overall coaches during Izzo’s 24 seasons and the second since coaches Izzo faced as Big Ten members.

NEBRASKA, joined Big Ten 2011-12

5/3: Danny Nee, 2000; Barry Collier, 2006; Doc Sadler, 2012; Tim Miles, seventh season (four over Izzo’s tenure, but only two coaches since joining Big Ten); fifth coach to be named.

NCAA trips: 2 of 24. Longest Izzo era NCAA drought: 15.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 0/0.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0.

MARYLAND, joined 2014-15

2/1: Gary Williams, 2011; Mark Turgeson, eighth season (two coaches during the Izzo era but only one coach since joining Big Ten.)

NCAA trips: 16 of 24. Longest NCAA drought since Izzo: four.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 6 (only one as Big Ten member)/2 (none as Big Ten member).

Final Fours/national titles: 2/1 (both as an ACC member).

RUTGERS, joined Big Ten 2014-15

7/2: Bob Wenzel, 1997; Kevin Bannon, 2001; Gary Waters, 2006; Fred Hill, 2010; Mike Rice, 2013; Eddie Jordan, 2016; Steve Pikiell, third season.

NCAA trips: none of 24: Longest Izzo era NCAA drought since Izzo: All 24 of Izzo’s years in streak that has now reached 28 overall.

Sweet Sixteens/Elite Eights: 0/0.

Final Fours/national titles: 0/0

* * *


Michigan State also has been spared ugly scandals that have stained schools with five coaches fired.

--- Michigan, Steve Fisher, impermissible benefits, 1997.

--- Minnesota, Clem Haskins, academic fraud, 1999.

--- Indiana’s Bob Knight, abusive behavior toward athletes, 2000.

--- Ohio State’s Jim O’Brien, impermissible benefits, 2004.

--- Indiana’s Kelvin Sampson, recruiting violations, 2008.

I asked Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim earlier this season about Izzo emerging with his reputation intact from an ESPN story a year ago that attempted to conflate the basketball program with the scandal involving Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor convicted of sexually assaulting female gymnasts.

“He is one of the best guys I’ve known in coaching. If anybody is doing things the absolute the right way, I believe it’s him – and I still do. I haven’t been proven wrong yet. I go on faith, and I think he’s a great guy, great coach and a man of absolute integrity – 100 percent. He had a very, very tough experience.”

* * *


From Clem Haskins to Bo Ryan, seven coaches have taken a Big Ten school to a Final Four during the Izzo era. Only one, Michigan’s John Beilein (2013 and 2018) is still coaching at the same school.

--- Clem Haskins (Minnesota), 1997 FF: fired 1999, out of coaching.

--- Jim O’Brien (Ohio State), 1999 FF: fired, 2004; out of coaching.

--- Mike Davis (Indiana), 2002 FF: resigned under pressure, 2006; third head coaching job since then and now at Detroit Mercy.

--- Bruce Weber (Illinois), 2005 FF: fired, 2012; head coach at Kansas State past seven years.

--- Thad Matta Ohio State, 2007 and 2012 FFs: mutually agreed with school to resign for health reasons and program’s declining success; out of coaching.

--- Dick Bennett, Wisconsin, 2000 FF: retired three games into 2000-01 season; later coached at Washington State but now out of coaching.

--- Bo Ryan, Wisconsin, 2004 and 2015 FFs: retired 12 games into 2015-16 season; has remained retired.

* * *

Fortunately for Michigan State, Izzo turned down an NBA future with the Atlanta Hawks in 2001 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010.

When Izzo turned down Atlanta, the Hawks turned to then-Illinois coach Lon Kruger. The Hawks fired Kruger after three seasons. Since then, Illinois is on its fifth coach, Brad Underwood. The Illini lost Bill Self to Kansas, fired Bruce Weber despite a 2005 Final Four, fired Jon Groce and let go Jamaal Walker as interim coach before turning to Underwood.

A quarter-century later, the only bigger names active in in college basketball are Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (five NCAA titles) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (three NCAA titles). Izzo is that big name Michigan State wanted and more -- overshadowing the rest of the Big Ten for nearly a quarter-century.

* * *

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light http://tinyurl.com/knsqtqu

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.



Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation.






David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."

Click here for the link to order from August Publications


Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Chargers.com. He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer, MLB.com, Rivals.com and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."