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Is Dantonio-Izzo The Best Coaching Duo In Michigan State History?

Are we at “Peak MSU” or is there another golden age of coaching in East Lansing?

Louisville v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

In a recent CBS Sports poll of NCAA basketball coaches, Tom Izzo is the coach most coaches would want their sons to play for. This follows a similar poll last month that had Mark Dantonio receive enough votes to be second place among college football coaches.

This made us think about the current combo of Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio and had us wondering if there has ever been a duo as successful as these two have been in the last 9 years. So here is our rankings of the top 5 coaching duos in MSU history.

5. “Biggie” Munn and Pete Newell

Starting off the list with a coach who has an arena named after him is a pretty good indicator of the success some of these duos have had. Out of this pair, Munn had a much greater impact on the university and his respective program, bringing titles to the Spartans in both 1951 and 1952. While Newell is not a staple name in East Lansing, his team in the 1951-1952 season was voted as high as 19th in the country (first time in MSU basketball history they broke the AP top 25). The combined success in 1951-52 is good enough for 5 on this list.

4. Tom Izzo and Nick Saban

Not going to lie, I really did not want to include Nick Saban on this list, but looking at the numbers, I really could not knock him off this list. Saban was the MSU coach from 95-99 and while the beginning of his tenure was average, his last year saw Michigan State’ best season in terms of wins since 1965, and it would be MSU’s highest ranking since the 1966 team. In that time, Izzo went from 16-16 in his first season to beginning a 19 year NCAA appearance streak, that includes trips to the NCAA Region Finals, National finals and a National Championship the year that Saban exited.

3. George Perles and Jud Heathcote

As far as a complete duo, these two have the best overall career numbers to compete with the current guard of Dantonio and Izzo, the only reason they are not higher on this list is because they were not winning at the same time. In 12 years, Perles led MSU to two Big Ten Conference titles, seven bowl games and a victory in the 1988 Rose Bowl. While Jud won a National Championship in 1979, he never made it past the Regional Semifinals while sharing the campus with Perles. However 6 bowls of Perles matched with the 6 NCAA appearances for Heathcoate are good for 3rd on our list.

2. Forrest "Forddy" Anderson and Duffy Daugherty

The early years of this duo were greater than the later half in terms of equality of greatness as both coaches in 1954 and in the first 5 years Anderson took MSU to the conference title in both the 56-57 season as well as the 58-59 season (as well as births in the Elite Eight and Final Four, respectively). During that time Daugherty also took the Spartans to a Rose Bowl win in 1955. Not only that but Duffy was able to beat Notre Dame 8 consecutive times between 1955 and 1963, win the National Championship in 1965 and 1966 and amass a total of 109 victories for MSU.

1. Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo

You can claim that I am a sucker for recency bias, but there is not a single duo in Michigan State history (or maybe all of college sports) that has had the shared success that Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo have had over the last 9 seasons. In that time, Dantonio took a program that had not had a winning season in 3 years and took the team to 9 straight bowls (a bowl for every year he has been there), 2 Big Ten Championships, 6 11+ win seasons, and he is second on the all time wins list for MSU coaches and turned a second tier program into a national contender. Dantonio is now the measuring stick to which all other “rebuilds” are measured. In that time, Tom Izzo has made the NCAA tournament all 9 years, including 2 Final Four appearances, 3 Big Ten Tournament Championships, and 3 Big Ten Conference Championships. While neither of these two has won a National Championship in the last 9 years, it is no doubt they are leading MSU through the best overall athletic stretch the school has ever seen.

Long story short? This is the best combo Michigan State has ever seen, the type of duo you will tell your kids about so love it while it is here and hope they both try to #ReachHigher.