When you’ve had as much coaching success in the college ranks as Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has enjoyed, there is pretty much universal respect for you and your program amongst your peers. Texas Tech men’s basketball head coach Chris Beard has plenty of praise for Izzo and the basketball program.
Speaking on a Final Four teleconference call with reporters on Monday, Beard was extremely complimentary of Izzo and what he has built in East Lansing. Beard truly admires Izzo and grew up studying his Michigan State teams.
Here is what Beard had to say, via the Detroit News:
“Coach Izzo is one of my idols,” “He’s somebody I look up to. He’s been great to coaches. When I was a junior college coach, a small college coach, and a young assistant, I watched his teams practice in the open practices at the Final Four for years.”
Izzo and Beard will face off on Saturday night in Minneapolis in the Final Four, with a chance to advance to the championship game on the line. Beard also said “It’s almost surreal” to have the chance to go up against his idol.
This will be the first ever meeting between the two coaches, and is also the first time the two schools will play each other in men’s basketball. It’s not too surprising that the two head coaches are yet to go head-to-head, as Beard had previous head coaching stints at smaller schools such as Little Rock, Angelo State (Division II) and McMurry (Division III).
Beard also said he has not had many chances to speak with Izzo over the years, but they did cross paths at a Peach Jam event — one of college basketball’s biggest recruiting showcases on Nike’s EYBL circuit. Beard said Izzo “went out of his way” to be nice toward him there. Beard reached out to Izzo to congratulate him via a phone call following Michigan State’s upset victory over Duke in the Elite Eight, and said Izzo was just as complimentary to the Texas Tech program on the call.
Another interesting piece of information Beard told reporters on the conference call is that his program molds itself after Izzo and Michigan State.
“In our program, we have terminology, Michigan State toughness, Tom Izzo rebounding,” Beard said. “These are things we tell our teams. We have so much respect for his program. We’re a program ourselves that tries to be blue collar and rebound and play defense and tries to be as tough as anyone. To me, in my opinion, that’s Michigan State basketball.”
That’s about as high of praise one coach could give another, and is a testament to what Izzo has built at MSU. So, don’t be surprised if Beard literally yells out “Michigan State” or “Tom Izzo” when calling his sets or challenging his guys to play tougher or crash the boards.
The feeling is mutual between Izzo and Beard. MSU’s head man heaped praise right back to Beard and the Texas Tech program during his weekly press conference.
Slightly edited for clarity:
“(Texas Tech) is said to be the best defensive team in America, and after watching film I would say they live up to that,” Izzo said. “They get a lot of steals; they get 17 points off turnovers per game. Where they’ve gotten better is that they’re starting to shoot the ball better. and they’re better offensively. The kid (Jarrett) Culver is a definite pro prospect, and yet they’ve got some other guys that are very good and ready. The guy from Italy (Davide Moretti) is a good shooter, maybe in their league he’s talked about as one of the best shooters in the country.
And Chris Beard has done an unbelievable job. You know, a Bobby Knight disciple, but he’s been a disciple of a lot of people. But I think you’ll see a lot of the Bobby Knight characteristics in his team: the motion offense, the way they move, the way they guard. He’s done a phenomenal job. We talk about getting older, and he’s got a very very old team. I think he has five or four redshirt seniors on his team, some grad transfers and he’s got very few freshmen that are an integral part of his team, so it’s a veteran team in different ways.”
Izzo also said in his press conference that he does not expect junior guard/forward Kyle Ahrens to be able to play this weekend.
Texas Tech and Michigan State tip-off at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday at 8:49 p.m.