They chanted Tom Izzo's name at an on-campus rally. They placed 750 "We Love Izzo" yard signs throughout East Lansing. They even launched a website where supporters could post messages to Izzo expressing their support.
Michigan State fans showed Izzo how much they appreciate him during the past week, and in the end, he rewarded their support with the words they had been hoping to hear. Not only did Izzo pass up a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, he also indicated Tuesday night that he intends to remain at Michigan State for the rest of his coaching career.
"I apologize for the time the process has taken, but sometimes there are opportunities that come about that must be thoroughly examined," Izzo said in a statement. "I'm no different than any other successful coach in that I've had multiple inquiries before, but this one was uniquely intriguing. There was a lot of information to gather and consider and some of it wasn't easily obtainable. But when making a life decision, I owed it to myself and my family to do my due diligence. From that I never wavered. And I'm pleased to say I am here for life at Michigan State."
Izzo's return will certainly ensure that Michigan State remains a perennial Final Four contender for years to come, but it's just as big a victory for college basketball as a whole as it is for the Spartans. At a time when the ethics of so many coaches and administrators has come into question, Izzo has led the Spartans to six Final Fours in 12 years with a touch of class and integrity that others have lacked.
"Coach Izzo is more than a basketball coach," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. "He positively impacts everything he touches, much of which is outside the job description of coaching basketball. With traits such as hard work, dedication, perseverance and attention to detail, he's a symbol of what we should possess as we work together for the financial recovery of our great state."
The lingering question that will probably will never be answered is whether Izzo's grind-it-out style and rah-rah motivational techniques could have worked at the professional level. It will probably always tug at Izzo a little bit that he will never get to attempt that challenge, but hopefully he'll be able to look back one day secure he made the right decision.
Other college coaches have failed in the NBA because they needed to control every aspect of an organization, but Izzo is too smart and too ego-free to fall victim to that. Like every other coach, however, he needs talent to succeed, so it would have been a huge risk to have accepted the Cavs' offer not knowing whether LeBron James was coming back or not.
It's interesting that Izzo would lock himself into the Michigan State gig "for life" in light of all the reports that he was growing a bit tired of recruiting and other aspects of his job. Perhaps the desire to finish what he's started at Michigan State outweighed those concerns.
"We have a great team returning next year with incredibly high goals," Izzo said. "I've repeatedly said I have greater goals for our program and that remains unchanged. Tops on that list is becoming one of just seven schools with three or more NCAA Championships. I'm also driven to continue to raise the perception of our program to an elite level.
"The entire Michigan State community has been terrific. I'm almost embarrassed by some of the acts of support, but I'm certainly touched. I tried to approach this decision in a rational manner, but my heart was always at MSU."
- Tom Izzo
- Michigan State