Two days after my wife and I got married, we took our honeymoon. The first night after arriving we sat down to dinner and I offered a toast. "To two happy days of marriage, may there be two more." It was meant mostly as a joke and approximately 4.3 percent seriously in that we should not take a moment of our marriage for granted. Last night after Tom's four hundredth victory at Michigan State I tweeted, "Congrats to Tom. What a wonderful 400 wins, let there be 400 more." It was in honor of that toast, previously an inside joke to me and the Mrs., that I framed the tweet that way.
For Izzo, it's easy for me to look back on last night's milestone and remember a time where maybe the toast "To 200 wins, may there be 200 more." would have seemed premature. Indeed, as he approached win number 200, this from the State News.
Coach Tom Izzo will have a chance to notch his 200th win as MSU's head coach against Iowa on Wednesday.
Izzo, who is in his ninth year on the job, was asked if he'll be around for another 200 wins at MSU.
"No, I won't be around that long," he said. "I'm not saying that I'm done tomorrow, but I don't see guys going 25 to 30 years at the same place very often.
"I think coaches wear out their welcome. I don't think that's a negative, I just think that's the way it is."
Izzo seemed discontent with Michigan State at the time and perhaps we were a bit discontent with him too. At the time he was a couple of years removed from his last final four and Izzo was 10-8 on the season with an NCAA tourney bid no sure thing. He had his crack at the big time but had not yet converted it to guaranteed long-term success. It would be easy for someone to decide they could walk away and move to more fertile recruiting grounds, but that's not who Izzo is. Izzo is the kid from Iron Mountain who can jam out on the accordion.
Four short years passed which included the improbable 2005 tournament run and he notched win number 300. A more contented Izzo said:
"I wanted to tell the crowd I still have 600 wins to go to catch (all-time leader) Bobby (Knight)," Izzo said with a smile before adding he might quit at 339 to keep Heathcote No. 1. "The thing that pleased me most was having all the guys come back. More than the wins, I'm happiest that we've never backed down from playing a tough schedule."
Then in 2010, MSU alum and Dan Gilbert brought in an armada of money trucks to East Lansing and offered Tom Izzo a job. Gilbert's offer of 5 years and 30 million dollars was something that MSU or any college basketball program could not match. Izzo is a competitor and my boy Ty wrote a piece on his blog about how even though Izzo loves MSU he has the itch to slay the Balrog.
No one would have blamed Izzo a bit for leaving. The old cliche says opportunity rarely knocks twice but here for Izzo it had. The Cavaliers had MSU alum Gilbert at the helm and a chance to retain one of the most physically gifted players to play the game, LeBron James. In a parallel universe, Izzo has led James to the NBA finals and lost (James even chokes in parallel universes). Izzo knew this was his last chance to leave East Lansing for the pros and he had a decision to make.
Izzo decided that day that he was "a lifer". There will be no NBA titles for him and no dealing with overpriced crybabies. Instead, a life full of graduating young men who go on to play in the NBA, a fanbase who is honored to have him as their coach and celebrating milestones of racking up victories by the hundreds and NCAA tournament wins by the dozens.
As our friends out at State College bury their legend this week, it's important to me that we take a few minutes to celebrate ours. Even if 400 wins isn't among the most special accomplishments Izzo could count on his trophy shelf, it's coinciding with the events in Pennsylvania serve as a reminder of how lucky we are to have Izzo and what a steady hand he's been at MSU. While the idea of Tom coaching another seventeen years to get another 400 wins seems a bit unlikely I raise my figurative glass and toast to 400 wins, may there be 400 more.