We spend two days in East Lansing alongside Hall of Fame basketball coach, Tom Izzo. The college hoops legend explains how his Italian ancestry shaped his coaching philosophies – centered on hard work, tough love and emotion – and walks us through the long-tailed grind that got him to the top of his craft. Plus, Coach Izzo reflects on media “attacks” during the Larry Nassar scandal, sparring with Muhammad Ali and adopting a son in no small part due to friend and fellow NCAA coaching icon, Nick Saban.
Tom Izzo’s wife Lupe: He asked me out, but wasn’t single
Hall of Fame basketball coach Tom Izzo and his wife Lupe Marinez Izzo jokingly recall their first encounters and Lupe initially rejecting Coach Izzo’s advances. Lupe remembers hanging up on Coach Izzo due to his relationship status while Coach tells us about how two tickets to a Big Ten championship turned the tide.
Tom Izzo: Still have a knack for shoe repair
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo points us to his Italian heritage and remembers working for his grandfather’s shoe repair shop in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Plus, Coach recalls an offer to take over the family business and the awkwardness of applying for a high school teaching position shortly after graduating college.
Tom Izzo: 7 years hustling UP Michigan with BFF Steve Mariucci
Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo shares stories of his tight friendship with Iron Mountain High School teammate, Steve Mariucci. The pair played basketball, football and ran track together. Izzo shares stories including delivering the Best Man speech at Mariucci’s wedding – despite his mouth being wired shut – and how their hustler mentality helped them eventually move from a $2,500 trailer home to a four bedroom duplex.
Tom Izzo’s MSU climb: From $4,500/yr. to $6.2 million/yr.
Tom Izzo walks us through the grind he endured to chase a far-fetched dream of coaching for the Spartans, including multiple rejections and finally a foot in the door at MSU that came with a $4,500 salary. Now in his 39th year at Michigan State, Izzo speaks broadly about the “entitled” state of dream chasers and society, and how so many are missing out on valuable lessons that come from hard work, patience and adversity.
Tom Izzo: The hardest loss in my 39 years at MSU
Tom Izzo explains the sentimental value behind what he recalls as the worst loss to-date during his illustrious tenure at MSU. Coach goes on by praising Mateem Cleeves as the “Magic Johnson” of the Spartans’ national championship team in 2000, plus the emotional toll of continually pursuing a second title. We also get to hear from Cleeves himself.
Tom Izzo: Sweating as Muhammad Ali’s pregame speech ran long
Tom Izzo remembers how a chance encounter with boxing legend Muhammad Ali snowballed into pregame and postgame locker room visits from the champ, plus an invite for the entire Spartans men’s basketball team to visit Ali’s home in Berrien Springs, Michigan after they won the 2000 NCAA National Championship. Coach Izzo remembers a pregame locker room speech from Ali on what it’s like to be a champion and several lessons in humility, as Ali continued to offer himself up to the Spartans team and its fans, while wanting nothing in return.
Tom Izzo on how Nick Saban helped find his son, Steven
Tom Izzo and his wife Lupe remember their long road to adopting their son Steven, and how they immediately fell in love with the baby boy two decades ago. Coach Izzo and Lupe share how friend and fellow coach Nick Saban orchestrated the adoption opportunity, plus Saban joins the conversation to share his perspective.
Tom Izzo: I’ve raised everyone else’s kids… but not my own
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo – in his 39th year with the Spartans – speaks candidly on the sacrifices that come with a commitment to his craft, including missing time with his family and now recouping some of that as his son Steven plays for him at MSU. Coach Izzo goes on to say, “I hope that the things I was able to do for them makes up for the time I didn’t get to spend.”
Tom Izzo: Larry Nassar is evil, deserves worse than he’s received
Tom Izzo remembers being forced into the limelight during the 2018 investigation into Larry Nassar, including feeling restricted in the words he could say publicly during the ongoing investigation and stepping into a lose-lose situation with whatever words he did say. Coach Izzo remembers this period as the darkest time in his career and shares his thought that Nassar deserves even worse than the punishment he’s receiving. Tom Izzo’s wife Lupe joins the conversation and discloses how their perception of and relationship with the media changed as a result of feeling unfairly attacked during the Nassar investigation.
Tom Izzo: Bill Walton, John Wooden humbled my inflated ego
Tom Izzo reflects on the burden of finding success and falling into the same trap as media and fans – heightened expectations. Coach Izzo remembers a congratulatory meeting with coaching legend John Wooden after Michigan State won the national championship in 2000, plus how a reminder from Bill Walton quickly humbled an inflated ego.
Famed Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo lets us in on his coaching philosophies, including imparting wisdom from his friend and fellow coach Nick Saban and Spartan alum, Magic Johnson. Coach Izzo explains his coaching philosophies pertaining to accountability, confrontation, discipline, the transfer portal and even his own self evaluations. He explains the value of time spent and the intricacies of determining when and how to call a player out, when necessary.
Tom Izzo: Transfer portal, NIL turning NCAA into a zoo
Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo offers his thoughts on the evolving NCAA landscape of the transfer portal and NIL money. The legendary Michigan State leader says the transfer portal encourages young athletes to change schools if they’re faced with any adversity, thus missing out on learning valuable lessons from failure. He goes on by talking about NIL deals, and predicting that more money for kids is likely to lead to more problems.
Tom Izzo: A different path if LeBron called back?
Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo remembers three different opportunities to coach in the NBA, including offers from the Hawks, Cavaliers and Bulls. He explains seeking out LeBron James’ camp before responding to the Cavs’ offer, plus gets into the circumstances that will lead to his eventual retirement.
Tom Izzo: Fans thought they could hide behind a letter
We’re with Tom Izzo at his Michigan State office, where he shows us a memorable pair of autographed Muhammad Ali gloves and his collection of Big Ten championship rings. Then, Coach Izzo looks back on a former practice of finding the worst, most hateful piece of “fan” mail each month and personally calling the author for a direct conversation.
Tom Izzo: I’ve banned newspapers and the internet from my home
We’re in East Lansing walking the campus with legendary basketball coach, Tom Izzo. During our walk and talk, Coach Izzo gushes over the beauty of the college campus and shares stories of his disdain for books, email and the internet. The Hall of Fame coach said he enjoys the beauty of the Michigan State campus so much, it actually played into his 2010 decision to stay put and turn down an opportunity to double his salary and coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Is Tom Izzo the best free throw shooter on the Spartans?
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo invites us into a Spartans practice, where he kicks things off with a routine of putting up free throw shots as the team runs through warmups. The Hall of Fame coach – who shoots roughly 90 percent from the free throw line – explains the origins of the routine and how his hard lesson from decades ago was able to help one of his Spartans players after a critical miss. Plus, we hear from Alabama coach Nick Saban, who recalls when Coach Izzo asked him to send over 12 sets of shoulder pads for a punishing basketball drill.
Portraying a legend: Two days at Michigan State with Tom Izzo
Huge thanks to the team at Michigan State for offering Graham and our crew incredible access to Hall of Famer and NCAA coaching legend, Tom Izzo. Here’s a behind the scenes look at our time at Coach Izzo’s home and with him across several stops on Michigan State’s campus, including his office, a Spartan’s practice and a traditional walk with Coach before a Michigan State football home game. Plus, Brad walks like a normal person (good job?) and Seth steps in for a cuddle.