Upon hearing news that men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo would be staying “for life at Michigan State,” the Spartan Nation erupted in celebration across campus, the U.S. and worldwide.
Prior to Izzo’s 8:30 p.m. press conference Tuesday at the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, horns were heard honking on Grand River Avenue while the topic of #Izzo reached the Top 10 global trending topics on Twitter. And by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, “Tom Izzo press conference” reached No. 12 on the list of most searched queries of the day on Google in the United States.
Mass speculation of Izzo’s choice occurred even up until his decision was made public. Animal science junior Jillian Conley first heard the news on Facebook, then double-checked the rumor with her friend, kinesiology junior Chris Buller.
“I was fortunate enough to go to a few games and be in the Izzone,” Conley said. “He’s definitely the heart and soul and he makes me proud to be a Spartan, for sure.”
To the university, the community and the team he coaches, Izzo is a person who can be looked toward as an idol for anyone committing to difficult work, Buller said.
“I was just really ecstatic, because you know, he’s the heart of MSU right there,” Buller said. “He’s like a father figure to (the team), and he puts his time and effort into them — dedication — and it really shows in the players.”
On the second day of MSU’s Academic Orientation Program for incoming freshman, Megan Raubolt, who intends come to the university as a premedical student, said she was near Case Hall when she received news of Izzo’s decision on her phone. Moments later, she arrived at the Clara Bell Smith center to hear Izzo speak for himself.
“Last year, when I found out that I was going here, I got really excited after the basketball team’s (successes),” Raubolt said. “He has a name at MSU — he can’t be replaced.”
Miles away from the press conference, Scott Westerman, associate vice president and executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, was busy serving steak to 650 hungry alumni at a fundraiser in Berrien Springs, Mich. A text message informing him of Izzo’s decision from MSU Athletics Director Mike Hollis contained the information that every fan at the event wanted to hear, he said.
“When (Hollis) said it was okay to make an announcement, I went to the microphone and I said ‘I have one thing to tell you tonight,’” Westerman said. “And I can tell you that those 650 Spartans nearly blew the tops of the tents with their cheers.”
Westerman and his wife, Colleen, raced back to East Lansing following the fundraiser in hopes of hearing Izzo, he said. Although they missed the conference by a matter of minutes, Westerman had the opportunity of speaking to Izzo and his wife, Lupe, afterward.
“I had the chance to tell them that the most gratifying thing for me about this whole adventure was the fact that the Spartan alumni that I talked to were the most concerned about Tom and his family being happy,” he said. “The fact that was more important than what might have come out of all of this at MSU, that made me incredibly proud to be a Spartan.”
Soon after Izzo spoke Tuesday night, senior guard Kalin Lucas said that he — and his team — believed that their coach made the right choice as they play for one thing — another national championship under the Spartan banner.
“We’re just all happy, all happy that he’s not leaving — we all don’t want him to leave,” Lucas said. “(It) just shows the type of person he really is (and) shows he cares about green and white.”
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