Is this Tom Izzo’s best coaching job at MSU?
Following Michigan State’s win at Ohio State on Saturday, Pat Forde wrote this piece on Izzo’s “Einstonian” coaching job.
It furthers the thought already floating around my mind for the past month: Tom Izzo might be in the middle of the best coaching job of his illustrious career.
This is no slight on the players who are putting forth effort in all the right places.
It would be an insult to say Branden Dawson hasn’t buckled down to improve his defense and Keith Appling hasn’t fought to become a better point guard.
Derrick Nix certainly has stepped up to keep himself in good shape and contribute.
Even within those efforts, though, it comes back to Izzo’s coaching this season. The individual parts are pretty darn good — Dawson and Adreian Payne were five-star recruits, most others were at the four-star level.
But above the highly touted athletes, Izzo has taken a group and made them even better.
Entering the season, the Spartans faced the graduation of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers (and what would have been the loss of Chris Allen, too). They faced the ugly and frustrating loss of Korie Lucious. Garrick Sherman transferred. Delvon Roe decided to hang it up.
Lucious and Roe would have been starters, and formed the core of this team with Draymond Green — now the final remaining piece of the 2008 recruiting class, and the lowest-rated at that time.
Green, the sole returner with any substantial playing time before 2010-11, combined with Austin Thornton to form a pair of leaders on the court — yes, Thornton now is a leader and a solid contributor.
These Spartans were unranked prior to the season, and now are in the top 10 for the sixth week and have been no lower than 11th since the eighth week.
Izzo has been working in masterful ways with the players he has, there is no doubt. Those rankings, the 20-5 record and sitting tied for the Big Ten lead with less than a month in the regular season to go do no happen by chance.
CBS senior basketball writer Jeff Goodman tweeted he ranks Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski as “1A and 1B.”
Reasons why? He didn’t say.
But here are my thoughts: Izzo gets more out of his players than any other coach could and he teaches them to be two-way players. He takes talent and makes it into a winning team — whatever that takes.
He recruits players who want to stay in school and he remains one of the best true college coaches in that respect.
As I have written before, he invests in his players like no one else. He invests in the Michigan State program.
What do those statements all have in common? They epitomize this season.
It’s not over yet, but this might be the season that most defines Izzo as a coach and it might go down as his best work yet.
So: What do you think?