Bill Coen shakes his head at how routine Tom Izzo makes NCAA Tournament runs look. Michigan State’s been to the Tournament 18 times since Izzo took over in 1995. They’ve been to 13 Sweet 16s, nine Elite 8s, and seven Final Fours, and won the national title in 2000.
“Year in and year out, it’s remarkable how his program performs,” Coen said. “They’re always in the conversation for the best team in the country. It seems like they’re in the Final Four every year. And he does it in such a way that never draws attention to himself. It’s always about his program and his players.”
And somehow, Izzo’s only been named national coach of the year once. It’s a head-scratcher.
“In my mind, if he were coach of the year every year, he’d be in the conversation with the top three guys of that year each and every year,” Coen said.
Izzo’s never shied away from a tough nonconference schedule, which is part of the reason the No. 1 Spartans agreed to play their first true road game of the season at Matthews Arena on Saturday. It will be just the second time in program history that Northeastern’s faced the top-ranked team in the country and just the third time that a school from a power conference has come to Matthews.
Coen has been at Northeastern since 2006. He was a part of the coaching staff under Al Skinner that led Boston College to seven NCAA Tournament appearances. Last year, he led the Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991. Still, he said Izzo is the type of coach he can learn from.
“He’s been a leader in our profession,” Coen said. “He’s been a guy that’s been vocal and stands up for everything that’s right in college basketball. So it’s going to be an honor and a privilege to compete against a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.