Jan 28, 2012

The fire still burns in Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo's belly

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports by Adam Biggers

During the LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers saga two years ago, there was speculation that Michigan State Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo wouldn't be in East Lansing for long.

In fact, many thought that Izzo, who was offered the Cavaliers coaching job by Spartans alum and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, would bolt for the NBA to coach James in Cleveland. It was valid speculation, too. Izzo had been offered a job by the Atlanta Hawks just a handful of years prior, and the thought of Izzo coaching at the highest level of basketball had been thrown around by pundits and analysts alike.

Well, the James saga ended with the now-infamous "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" televised event, and Izzo stayed put in East Lansing, winning his 400th game Wednesday as the Spartans coach with a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

It would be somewhat logical to assume that Izzo, who had twice flirted with the idea of leaving Michigan State, could, in theory, leave the program in the near future. But that's not so. This season, Izzo looks as if he's having fun again, and he has no exit strategy or plan to leave the program -- in the near future, at least -- that he built into a national powerhouse.

"I don't have a game plan," Izzo said during a recent radio interview. "Everyone says you should have one, but I really don't have one. I think as everything else, it's a feel. There's nothing that feels in the near future."

In the past, Izzo has said that he would like to win another national title with the Spartans before considering vacating his post as the mayor of East Lansing, rather, the head coach at Michigan State. Six Final Fours, a national title in 2000 and runner-up status in 2009 fuels the fiery coach. He has his team in great position to capture a Big Ten title, but, perhaps more importantly, make another deep run into national tournament known as March Madness.

"Really it comes down to how you feel and what your energy level is," Izzo said. "I think one thing that I promised myself is the day I don't want to go recruit all 20 days of the summer, time for me to get out. There are certain things that are part of these jobs you got to do 'em. If you don't want to talk to alums, you don't want to go out and recruit, you probably shouldn't have the job."

And Izzo is right. If a coach feels that he's lost the ability to draw in top talent, he probably should hang up the whistle. However, Izzo has brought in the likes of Keith Appling, a savvy guard who is most definitely the future of the Spartans offense; and Branden Dawson, a freshman who is a "star" in the making, according to the 17-year veteran coach.

Adding to his recent recruiting success is Gary Harris, one of the top players in the 2012 class who recently committed to Michigan State. Harris has been on Izzo's radar for some time, and landing the Indiana prep star only shows that Izzo hasn't lost that fire that he's become revered for.

Izzo, who will soon turn 57, has at least 10-15 years of coaching left. There have been several coaches who have stayed on the sidelines until their 70s, and Izzo most definitely fits that mold. Basketball is in his blood. Michigan State is in his blood. He won't stop until he's satisfied.

Adam Biggers has followed NCAA basketball for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. He can be reached by e-mail at Adam.Biggers@Yahoo.com, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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