Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Helter Skelter

I don't think any two words can better describe my feelings towards Tom Izzo. Regardless of whether he has earned it or not, Coach Izzo is labelled as one of the best coaches in America. I would argue that he is a better person than he is a coach.

Tom's greatest attribute is leadership. I have never seen highlights of Tom as a player, but I can only imagine. I picture him as a Mateen-like guard who was best known as a floor general and the emotional leader of the team rather than the most skilled player on the court. He has transformed MSU into a perenial Top 25 team through hard work and discipline. He probably has been more influencial to Michigan State athletics than any other person, including Magic Johnson.

Tom has always had a great relationships with his players. I think this has helped him become an excellent recruiter. His relationship with the Flint Stones is infamous, but not exclusive. He has really bonded with Drew Neitzel, Travis Walton, Alan Anderson, Chris Hill and others. I think that kids see that as a big draw to MSU.

Team first Mentality. I really admire how Coach Izzo emphasizes personal sacrifices for the greater good of the team. I think he has done a superb job of getting his teams to set aside personal goals for the betterment of the team. Who else could get J-Rich to ride the pine for most of his freshman year and convince Zach Randolph to come off of the bench? He has never catered to one person or modified his coaching style in favor of a superstar. He has instilled a level of discipline that is unmatched by many programs around the country.

Tom Izzo is not God, however.

He is one of the worst X's and O's coach I have ever seen.
I think that early in his coaching career, he got away with leaving games in Mateen's hands and talent prevailing during clutch situations. To illustrate my point, pay close attention the next time that Michigan State comes out of a timeout and tries to execute a designed play. Most of the plays are not only poorly executed, but also poorly designed. During the glory years, Tom essentially would call a time out, give Mateen the rock and tell him to win the game for us. This often resulted in Mateen dribbling at that top of the key entirely too much and often shooting a line-drive three that somehow would always go in. Or more recently, Tom would force the ball into Drew Neitzel's hands for a desperation three even if opponents have three guys on him.

His regular season record is atrocious.
This is best illustrated in this must-read article. As you can see, his record against the top 25, especially while ranked themselves, doesn't merit all of national attention that he gets for being a great coach. I have been saying this for years. I think most of this is because Tom doesn't really care about the regular season. This is most evident early in the regular season every year. How many times have we seen Tom use 12 players against a highly touted Carolina or Duke team in a November contest? Then, when the tournament comes around, he sticks to 7 or 8 guys. I love Isaiah Dahlman, but no body wants to see him touch the floor against UNC under any circumstances. I want to see our 7 best play against their best five. What's worse is that he does this against teams that we should blow out by 30 even when we are losing! The perfect example of this was the IPFW game this year. We were losing in the second half and still played with lineups that had as many as 3 freshmen in it at the same time. Tom was determined to play all his guys and didn't care if we lost to a team who's mascot is some kind of stampeeding elephant. Although we won the game, I left saying to myself that I wish I didn't even see it. I have seen too many games like this under the Izzo regime.

MSU needs to live up to expectations.
Whether he likes it or not, Coach Izzo has raised expections in East Lansing. Unfortunately, in the last 5 or 6 years, his teams have not lived up to these expectations. Too many times we have been picked to win the conference and then fall flat on our faces with a fourth or fifth place finish. If you look at Tom's teams over the last 13 years, he has underacheived during the regular season in more than half of his teams (7). This has been masked by the fact that in many cases where his teams didn't live up to regular season expecations, he was still able to get them deep into the tournament (namely '01, '03, and '05).


From John in Dearborn:

Re: "Crandell and Kebler - Somebody email me something about these guys that isn't on their bio sheet."

A Kebler is a white cracker that normally comes in a green box.

-Nice. You are right. That is not on the bio sheet.

Tomorrow: Something short, but fun for Christmas.

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