College Basketball
Tom Izzo says coaching his son was 'the greatest experience' of his career
College Basketball

Tom Izzo says coaching his son was 'the greatest experience' of his career

Published Apr. 11, 2024 2:23 p.m. ET

When Dan Hurley was in Andrew Hurley's ear as his son dribbled the clock down in the penultimate possession of UConn's national title game win on Monday, Tom and Steven Izzo could relate to them. 

Just like Hurley at UConn, Steven Izzo was a walk-on at his father's big-time college basketball program, usually only seeing the count when the game was a formality for the final few moments. The younger Izzo got a kick out of watching Hurley dribbling the clock down into a turnover instead of looking for one little bit of limelight. 

"My kid was laughing," the elder Izzo told the "Jim Rome Show." "He says, ‘He leads the team in turnovers, and he only plays 30 seconds a game' because Danny always makes him hold the ball at end. You won't even let him take a shot because he doesn't want to rub anything in. I love that."

This season marked the final time that Izzo (and Hurley, for that matter) would get to coach his son. Steven Izzo is graduating from Michigan State following his fifth season with the program. The 5-foot-8 guard was a walk-on to his father's program in 2019. Izzo admitted that his son "wasn't good enough to play at [Michigan State], everybody knows it." Izzo even showed some jealousy toward his son, remarking that when he saw him warm up ahead of his first game with the Spartans he would've given "my right and left arm just to warm up."


However, Izzo said that coaching his son was the "greatest experience," sharing that he and Hurley had a conversation about how much it was worth coaching their sons.

"It's worth every minute," Izzo said. "I'm sure it was hard in the locker room. We had a rule that what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room. Can you imagine how many days those players were mad at the head coach and his son is sitting right there in the locker room? What I loved about my team is that they respected him enough that they knew he wasn't going to say nothing. 

"There were even sometimes I said, ‘Well, man, maybe I could ask Steven how the locker room is.' But I never did that, and he never gave me any advice. For that, I truly love him [and] appreciate him, and I'd recommend it to anybody if the opportunity arrives, because so many of us don't get to spend time from 1 to 18. I got him from 18 to 23, and I got to spend some quality time."

'I'm so thankful' — Steven Izzo embraces his dad Tom Izzo on Senior Night

Steven's departure puts a bow on another era over Izzo's 29-year tenure as Michigan State's head coach. It also caused some to speculate if it would be the end of his time in East Lansing. Izzo will turn 70 in the middle of next season and many of his top contemporaries (Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jay Wright, Jim Boheim) as the transfer portal and name, image and likeness have transformed the sport.

Izzo doesn't want to follow suit quite yet, but he signaled some concerns he had with the game. 

"I love my job," Izzo said. "I love the players, I love the practices, I love the games. I'm really questioning our profession right now. That would be the best way I could put it. I think we let some things go, whether it be the NCAA, people talking about it, everybody seems to be taking sides.

"I've always hoped players [could] make more money, and we should have done more for them in some way. I'm not big on the transfer portal, and I'm not big on — there's not a sport in America that has no salary cap. No, without contracts. Everybody says we have a one-year deal. Technically, it's a one-day deal. Every day somebody can leave, every day something can change. That part of it is concerning. It seems good for a certain percentage of people. I think the majority of these kids in the transfer portal and everything, there are a lot more that are failing than are succeeding. That's what I worry about. It's not going to affect me."

John Calipari, along with Izzo, is one of the few remaining active Hall of Fame coaches in college basketball. But his job at Kentucky wasn't safe as some believed he failed to adapt to the new era before taking the Arkansas job on Wednesday. 

Izzo is working to avoid a similar fate. 

"I decided I'm going to adjust," Izzo said. "I'm going to find a way to adjust because I still love what I'm doing. I've talked to a lot of people — Jay Wright, Nick Saban, Magic [Johnson] — there [are] adjustments to be made, and yet I think some people are worried about the direction we're going."

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