CHICAGO — After the clock hit zero and the final horn blew, a flurry of green and white signs popped up from the crowd seated behind Michigan State's bench at the United Center on Friday afternoon.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo glanced over, smirked at the signs held high by fans, friends and family — perhaps most proudly by wife Lupe and daughter Raquel.
The signs, which read "600 career wins and counting" were a lovely sentiment, the Naismith Hall of Fame coach said, but he was more excited to make it to the Big Ten Title semifinals.
"It doesn’t mean anything except I’m getting old," Izzo said, smirking, following top-seeded MSU's 77-70 win over Ohio State. "Like I told everyone, I’m 600 behind Mike Krzyzewski. So I’m staying humble on that."
To be technical, Izzo was 527 wins behind Krzyzewski, Duke's longtime Hall of Fame coach and the winningest ever in the NCAA. Though the third-seeded Blue Devils play No. 2 North Carolina later Friday in the ACC Tournament.
But Friday's win over the eighth-seeded Buckeyes adds to an already long list of accolades for the 64-year-old Izzo.
First, the win makes Izzo the 13th active Division I coach to reach the feat. He began his coaching career with MSU and has remained at its helm since the 1995-96 season. Izzo eclipsed predecessor Jud Heathcote as the program's winningest coach with his 341st win on Nov. 28, 2009 and is the second-winningest coach in conference history behind former Indiana Hall of Famer Bob Knight (899-374, 353 Big Ten wins).
"I think the teams that we’ve had the last couple of years and the coaching staff that we’ve had all together are obviously doing something right," said fifth-year senior Kenny Goins, who was on the team when Izzo earned his 500th win on Nov. 26, 2015 (Boston College). "For me to be here for over 100 wins, I’m proud to have shared that moment with him."
Izzo, the Iron Mountain, Michigan, native has won eight National Coach of the year awards, including the Clair Bee Award (2005), National Association of Basketball Coaches (2001, 2012), the Associated Press, Basketball News and the Basketball Writer's Association in '98. He also earned Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1998, 2009 and 2012. Izzo's seven Final Four appearances in the NCAA Tournament mark the most ever by a Big Ten coach and is tied for fifth-most all-time.
Izzo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 9, 2016.
The Spartans will get a chance to get Izzo win No. 601 on Saturday. They play No. 4 Wisconsin at 1:30 p.m. EST (CBS), with the winner advancing to the conference tournament championship game.
Despite downplaying the achievement, Izzo said he'll go out to dinner and enjoy himself the rest of the night. Until it's time to prepare for Saturday.
But also stay humble.
"It’s because of the staff you have and the players you coach," Izzo said. "That is the truth. And you (also) have a good AD, a good president, the people around you that supported you."
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