If there was one thing, anything, that a person would choose to knock on Michigan State Spartans head coach and future Hall of Famer Tom Izzo, it could be his 1-9 record against Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is men’s basketball winningest coach with 1,040 victories over his coaching career.
Coach K might have Izzo’s and Michigan State’s number every time they square off, because he enjoys watching the Spartans every chance he gets.
Last week, the two iconic basketball head honchos share their basketball knowledge on Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM radio show “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K”. The sport’s lone 1,000-game winner not only considered Izzo’s Spartans as one of the clear-cut favorites to go all the way, but spoke of two seniors that are capable of rising to the occasion.
“With Valentine that’s visible,” the Duke coach said. “I think (Matt) Costello does that. He, too, seems to have that bond with you.”
“I think your team matches up with everybody, from what I’ve seen,” Krzyzewski told Izzo, against whom he is 9-1 all-time, including an 81-61 rout in the Final Four last season. “Kansas is really, really good. We have three teams in our league that are right there in Miami, (North) Carolina and Virginia. But I think you’re right there.”
Coach K then posed a question regarding one of his former college standouts and current emerging star in the NBA – Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, and if Izzo ever realistically saw him as an NBA prospect.
“No. I can’t say that I have,” Izzo said. “He came here 275 pounds, a little fat, roly-poly guy, you know? You know what I like about guys, the one great thing about seeing guys for three and four years is, when you see them get better, it’s easier to tell an NBA team, ‘I don’t know how good he’s gonna be, but every year he’s been here he’s gotten better. I think the chances are good he’ll keep improving at that level too.’ And that’s kind of what he’s done.”
The biggest thing that Krzyzewski shared with Izzo and why he has immense respect for the Michigan State brand of basketball is what Izzo has turned them into over the years.
“What Tom has done with Michigan State is not build a program … What you’ve done is you’ve built a family and a brotherhood,” Krzyzewski said. “And I see in your program stuff I see in my program. You have immense loyalty in your former players.”
A flattered Tom Izzo said that the atmosphere in East Lansing goes back to the days of Magic Johnson running the show on the floor with Izzo’s predecessor and MSU coaching great Jud Heathcote on the bench directing traffic. “…great players don’t make great teams. It’s players that play together that make great teams.”
The Blue Devils head coach to Izzo about his senior superstar, Wooden Award ‘Player of the Year’ candidate Denzel Valentine.
“His stats are, like, crazy,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a definite big-time candidate for national player of the year. To put up the numbers, assists, points, rebounds, but also personality. … You don’t get a chance to watch teams enough, but when I have seen you guys, he’s you on the court. You guys have a great, great connection. And you can say anything to him, right? And he’s good.”
The next month for the Spartans has a chance to be a monumental one. In addition to possibilities of Valentine being named ‘Player of the Year’, Izzo being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Spartans winning the national championship, but they could very well land the the nation’s top high school recruit in Josh Jackson.