Tom Izzo has led his Michigan State Spartan basketball team to an impressive 7th NCAA Tournament sweet 16 in his 13th year as a head coach. It got me to thinking: his reign is similar in many ways to Lloyd Carr's run (also 13 years) as Michigan's head football coach. Let's have a look.
First of all, both started coaching in the shadow of a legendary coach: Izzo followed Jud Heathcote, and Lloyd followed Bo (after a few years of Moeller). Izzo's winning percentage as MSU head coach is 70%, and Lloyd's winning percentage as UofM head coach was 74%. Each has one national title - Izzo in 2000, Carr in 1997. Izzo won a title in his fifth year as head coach. Lloyd won a title in his third year. Izzo's team has seven sweet 16 appearances. Lloyd's teams finished in the top 16 seven different times. Each has had teams that in off-years still had some success at the end of the year - Lloyd with his bowl win over Florida last year, and Izzo with an elite 8 run in 2003 with 12 losses.
I'm not going to sit here and argue that Lloyd was a better coach than Izzo. They coach different sports with vastly differing philosophies, and the measures for success are quite different in each sport. Lloyd can't match Izzo's three consecutive final four appearances. Izzo can't match Lloyd's five conference titles. It's hard to equate coaching accomplishments in different sports, but both coaches have attained a kind of consistency that successful teams strive for. Lloyd led Michigan to bowl appearances in each of his 13 seasons, and Izzo has 11 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
I have a lot of respect for Tom Izzo. I started thinking about Izzo and his success after their victory over Pitt this weekend, and how nice it would be to have a team in the tourney year after year. His teams are always near the top of the Big Ten and are sucessful in the tournament because they play smart and tough, and are well coached. And scandals at MSU are rare. He always seems to get the best out of the talent on his team.
Michigan head basketball coach John Beilein had some very nice success at WVU, and his leftover players are in the sweet 16 this year too. If he can start to get some good players to come to Ann Arbor (and not to East Lansing), he'll have Michigan contending in the Big Ten in no time. I have a feeling that in a couple years, we'll be starting an NCAA tournament streak of our own.