The time has come to downgrade Tom Izzo’s rep. For the lack of a better word, it has turned to goo.
At one point, many believed Izzo, the Michigan State basketball coach, owned March.
Yes, if there was a will, Izzo would find a way to coach his players up and get them into a deep March Madness tournament run. Enough already.
Honestly, how long can you keep painting that picture when it simply doesn’t apply anymore.
Izzo is washed, beat.
Sunday was the latest example. Duke beat the Spartans, 85-76. Izzo is now 3-13 against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Not a pretty picture, either.
In fact, Izzo hasn’t been out of the second round in five of the last six seasons the tourney was held. Izzo’s last trip to a national championship game was 2009.
Izzo won a national championship so long ago that sportswriters used typewriters back then. His team won the whole ball of wax in 2000. Yep, a generation ago. A lot has happened in 22 years. Mostly, MSU not tasting another title.
Sure, at least, Izzo won one. But almost anyone can get lucky and win one title. Enter Steve Fisher.
The list of college basketball coaches who were at the helm when the stars aligned or a superstar player came on campus and won the damn thing is long . In fact, 33 coaches have the same resume as Izzo, that of a single title.
Izzo is supposedly the best basketball coach MSU has ever seen. But he’s won just as many titles as Jud Heathcote, who had the gig before Izzo.
And no one thinks Heathcote was a midwestern version of John Wooden, who won 10 titles.
In fact, many believe Heathcote was just in the right place at the right time when Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser showed up in East Lansing and beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in 1979.
And let’s be honest, had Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson not stuck around for their senior seasons and entered the NBA drafts after their junior years, Izzo wouldn’t even have the one he has.
We get it. It’s Duke. That school is supposed to win. Hence, Izzo gets a pass and nobody wants to talk about his horrid record against Duke and the other powers in college basketball.
Yet, any interview or commentary about Izzo, it’s about what a great coach he is and how he is among the elite coaches in college basketball.
No one is saying Izzo is dog food. He gets credit for things he has accomplished. No one can pooh-pooh the eight Final Four appearances by Izzo teams.
But there’s some fugly stuff along the way, too.
Still, some Detroit sports columnists keep writing the same thing every year: Despite the loss, there’s hope for the home team. It’s almost silly when you think 22 years have passed since MSU cut down a national title net.
It’s the ultimate home cooking.
Few there will look at it as it is. Izzo’s ship has sailed. The idea of winning a second title that many years apart seems like a pipe dream.
Izzo is partly to blame. We get the single-elimination format of the tourney. It makes it tough to win big consistently. One bad night and you’re done.
But the great coaches have won multiple titles. That’s why they are great. They aren’t hailed for not just getting to a Final Four. Still, after the Spartans won that title in 2000, Izzo started to buy in that it was about him and not the kids. Coaches that do that overestimate the situation. You can be a brilliant coach, but if you don’t have the talent, you won’t — can’t — win.
Izzo resisted the one-and-done wave in college basketball. He wanted kids who were going to commit to MSU and stay awhile. It backfired.
Smart coaches adapted. Even Coach K understood that. Heck, Kyrie Irving played just 11 games at Duke before being the overall No. 1 pick in the NBA.
Izzo chose to be Fred Flintstone.
And it didn’t work. We saw that in the 2009 national championship game played at Ford Field in Detroit. MSU had no no sure-thing NBA players on its roster and North Carolina had three. The game was basically over in about five minutes, UNC won, 89-72.
The next year, Izzo lost to small-school Butler in the Final Four. In 2016, there was that first-round loss to Middle Tennessee.
Sure, Izzo has won plenty along the way. Just not often enough on the biggest stage. And a 22-year championship drought is Exhibit A.