EAST LANSING, Mich. – Tom Izzo has been known to do some wild stunts for Michigan State Madness, the annual event kicking off hoops season for both the men and women’s teams. He’s ridden into the Breslin Center on a motorcycle and a horse and somehow survived to tell the tale. He dropped from the rafters one year but was left suspended in the air for, as he described it “five minutes” by the firefighters who had helped set up his harness before he was returned to Earth.
There were no stunts this year. After the elaborate introduction of the women’s team and coach Suzy Merchant – complete with tributes to Michael and Janet Jackson – and then a formal introduction of the men’s team, dress in tuxedos, athletic director Mark Hollis let the Breslin Crowd that there would be no theatrics from Izzo.
“Instead of Tom doing something for you, I want you to do to do something for Tom,” Hollis said.
Cued up onto the overhead scoreboard came a tribute video to the newest member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. When it finished showing Izzo at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in September, Hollis introduced the coach, his wife Lupe, daughter Racquel and son Steven. Izzo wore his orange Hall of Fame jacket and massive Hall of Fame ring as he and his family walked out onto the court to a standing ovation.
Izzo proceeded to thank the fans and let them know nothing has changed despite his new wardrobe accessories.
“Just look down at this pumpkin in the middle of a basketball court. I’m living proof that when a group of people come together to accomplish a common goal it can happen,” Izzo said. “The dream is still alive. We’ve got work to do even though everyone looks nice. Right now I’ve got the nicest ring I’ve ever had on my finger. I’m taking that off and I’m giving it to my wife. And I am taking off my jacket, and I’m giving it to my wife. The jacket I’m going to wear to work for the next eight or 10 years or so is this one.”
Izzo pulled over his head a white Spartans coaches jacket.
“Because that (HOF) jacket and that ring is either going to be worn in retirement or death,” Izzo said. “From now on this is what you’re going to see us in.”
Michigan State has won seven Big Ten titles and five Big Ten tournament championships under Izzo since his first season in 1996. The Spartans have been to seven Final Fours and won a national title under Izzo. You name it and chances are Izzo has accomplished it in the world of college basketball coaching.
He said thank you to the fans Friday night and then got onto the business of adding to this program’s accomplishments.
“We’re going to go to work and try to do what we do at Michigan State. We’re going to try to hang up another banner on that side,” he said, pointing to the Big Ten championship flags before turning to the side of the Breslin Center where the Final Four and national championship banners hang.
“And I promise you we’re going to work our ass off to hang another banner on that side.”
— Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) October 15, 2016
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo