Tom Izzo, the longtime and legendary basketball coach of the Michigan State Spartans, addressed questions this week about whether he plans to retire after the 2023-2024 season. Izzo, who will turn 69 years old in January 2024, is currently in his 28th season coaching the Spartans and has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. However, some have speculated that Izzo could decide to hang up his whistle after one more year at the helm.
Izzo Shuts Down Retirement Speculation
In comments made on January 16th, 2023, Izzo directly confronted the narrative that he only has one more year left with Michigan State.
“Everybody’s predicting this is my last year,” Izzo said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
Izzo stated unambiguously that he has no current plans to step down next year. “I got a few years left in me,” Izzo declared. When asked how he’ll know when it’s time to retire, Izzo pointed to advice he once got from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“What Coach K told me is, ‘You’ll know when you know,'” Izzo recalled. “And I don’t know yet.”
The speculation about Izzo potentially retiring started swirling earlier this season. However, Izzo maintains that he still has the drive and passion for coaching college basketball.
“Right now, I’m looking forward to next year too much to think that way,” said Izzo this week.
Potential Successors Once Izzo Does Retire
Although Izzo currently expects to stay on as Michigan State’s coach for at least another couple years, he will have to decide on a succession plan at some point. Izzo acknowledged that whenever he does choose to step down, he will likely follow a model similar to what Nick Saban has done with Alabama football.
Saban executed his retirement and succession extraordinarily well, Izzo noted, bringing in trusted former assistant Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator in 2021 and grooming O’Brien to take over the program. Saban then officially handed the reins to O’Brien last year while shifting into an advisory role.
“I think that’s the blueprint that most coaches should look at,” Izzo commented this week.
So when Izzo does retire in the coming years, he will probably look to identify and prepare one of his longtime assistants to carry on Michigan State’s winning tradition. Potential candidates could include current assistants Dwayne Stephens and Doug Wojcik or former Izzo assistants like Mark Montgomery and Dane Fife.
Izzo emphasized that the program’s stability will factor heavily into his eventual retirement decision.
“You want to leave the place in good shape,” Izzo explained. “I don’t want to leave and then they bring in some assistant from some school out West that doesn’t know Michigan State. I want someone who knows Michigan State.”
Looking Back at Izzo’s Epic Career
Whenever Tom Izzo does decide to walk away, he will leave enormous shoes to fill. Izzo’s sustained run of success in East Lansing has been nothing short of remarkable.
Some key highlights from Izzo’s epic tenure with Michigan State:
- 8 Big Ten regular season championships
- 6 Big Ten Tournament championships
- 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances (every year since 1998)
- 10 trips to the Final Four (3 more than any other school during his tenure)
- 1 National Championship in 2000 led by Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson
Izzo has accomplished all of this while building his rosters year after year around under-recruited players rather than one-and-done blue-chip prospects. 22 of Izzo’s players have made it to the NBA during his tenure.
“We get a lot of guys who maybe weren’t top-50 players coming out of high school, but they buy into the hard work and our program,” Izzo commented this week.
That ability to foster buy-in and bring the best out of his players, combined with his trademark intensity on the sidelines, has made Izzo one of the most respected coaches in basketball. His sustained excellence has practically made Michigan State synonymous with March Madness.
So whenever Tom Izzo does finally step aside, he will leave colossal shoes for his successor to fill. For now though, Izzo remains as fiery and driven as ever on the Michigan State sideline. And despite the retirement chatter, “The Izz” doesn’t sound ready to walk away just yet if this week’s comments are any indication.
Izzo still has more history to make it seems before he takes his final bow. But once the curtains do close on his incredible coaching career, Izzo has made it clear he wants to follow Nick Saban’s blueprint and ensure that the culture of success at Michigan State continues marching on.
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