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Michigan State Men’s Basketball announces several staff changes

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NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Michigan State vs Texas Tech Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a while, Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo is shaking up his staff a bit. MSU announced several staff changes to the 2021-2022 staff, including bringing back several former players.

“I’m very excited to make the announcement for our staff for next season,” Izzo said in a press release. “This is the first time we’ve had some change in our staff in a while, but I think we have some great experience and it means even more when former players want to return to campus to be a part of building our future.

“Dwayne Stephens is one of our mainstays and will remain as our associate head coach while overseeing the entire staff and bringing together a group I am really excited to work with as we start the new season.”

While Stephens remains as associate head coach, and Mike Garland remains as the other assistant coach, Doug Wojcik moves into the third assistant coaching role. Wojcik takes over for Dane Fife, who left to take an assistant coaching job with the Indiana Hoosiers.

Wojcik being promoted to assistant coach was reported back in April, but is now official. Wojcik spent the past three seasons with the Spartans as recruiting coordinator. He previously served as an assistant coach on Izzo’s staff for two seasons from 2003 through 2005, and helped lead the Spartans to a 2005 Final Four appearance. He went on to become head coach of Tulsa from 2005 through 2012, and then head coach at the College of Charleston from 2012 until August of 2014, when Wojcik was fired after an investigation into allegations that he verbally abused his players. Despite the allegations, Wojcik is a trusted member of Izzo’s staff.

As recruiting coordinator, Wojcik was instrumental in helping Michigan State earn a national top-10 class in 2021, which includes Max Christie, Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks II. Christie and Brooks both recently earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors in their respective states.

“Doug has been a vital part of our success over the last three years since he returned to East Lansing,” Izzo said. “As our director of recruiting, he was the lead for us with an incoming recruiting class that is among the top in the nation. I’ve known Doug for more than 20 years and he’s one of the best basketball minds I know. It was natural for him to move into our assistant coaching position when that opened. He’s got tremendous experience, is a man of incredible character and has a work ethic that is unmatched.”

Additionally, former Spartan player and assistant coach Mark Montgomery returns to the program. He will take over Wojcik’s old post as recruiting coordinator, which is quite frankly an excellent hire by Izzo.

Montgomery played at MSU for Jud Heathcote from 1988 through 1992. After playing professionally in Europe for a few years, Montgomery got his start as an assistant coach at Central Michigan for then head coach Jay Smith. Montgomery then returned to his alma mater in East Lansing in 2001 and stayed through the 2011 season. He helped guide MSU to Final Four appearances in 2005, 2009 and 2010. Montgomery went on take the head coaching job at Northern Illinois in 2011, but was fired in January 2021.

“When we knew we were going to have openings on the staff after last season, Monty was one of the guys I had in mind,” Izzo said. “He played here under Jud and was on my staff for 10 years when we really got things going. As a head coach for 10 years and someone who has more than 20 years of experience recruiting in college basketball, he will be a great fit for us as a recruiting coordinator.”

Two former Spartan players who played for Izzo are also making a return to Michigan State. As we covered last week, Austin Thornton joins the staff as video coordinator, taking over for Drew Denisco who departed to take an assistant coaching job at Eastern Michigan. Meanwhile, Matt McQuaid is coming on as assistant director of basketball operations.

“Austin Thornton is one of the hardest working and most humble players I have coached during my time at Michigan State,” Izzo said. “I loved having him on staff as a graduate assistant and he’s worked really hard on the high school level to get himself ready to take a college job. It’s great to have him back.”

Thornton most recently served as head coach for the freshman and varsity boys basketball teams at Sparta High School in Michigan. He played for MSU from 2007 through 2012 and was a two-time team captain, while being a part of teams that reached two Final Fours and won three Big Ten Championships. He also served as a graduate assistant for Izzo from 2015 through 2017.

McQuaid was a captain as a senior for the 2019 Michigan State Final Four team, and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive Team honors that season. He was also part of Michigan State squads that won back-to-back Big Ten regular season titles in 2018 and 2019, and two Big Ten Tournament titles in 2016 and 2019.

“I’m really excited to have Matt back with us and he really is excited to be on staff and start his professional career,” Izzo said. “He’ll be a great addition and someone who can relate to our players. I think this is the start of what could be a great career for Matt.”

As assistant director of basketball operations, McQuaid will now work under Garrett Briningstool who takes over for David Thomas as director of operations. Briningstool, who spent the past two seasons as Izzo’s executive assistant, will also serve as chief of staff. The Spartans also announced Julian Stall as director of creative video after working with MSU Athletics Spartan Vision the past four years.

As for Thomas, who was a member of the 2000 Michigan State men’s basketball national championship team, he is leaving the program after six seasons. Thomas is moving on to work at Podium Risk Management, “one of the leading brands in financial services with a concentrated focus on serving professional athletes.” Paul Davis, another former Spartan standout basketball player, is a partner at the company.

Izzo is sad to see Thomas leave, but excited for his future:

“It’s bittersweet to see DT leave, but I’m also very happy for him, Toni and his family,” Izzo said. “He’s been such a big part of our program for the last 20 years, first with a successful playing career here and being part of three Final Four teams, four Big Ten Championships, and, of course, a national championship team. Over the last six seasons, since he returned as our director of operations, he has been one of the faces for our program and someone everyone immediately recognizes and loves for the person he is. We’re really going to miss his presence around here, but know that he’ll be back and that he is, truly, forever a Spartan.”

Full staff changes:

  • Doug Wojcik goes from recruiting coordinator to assistant coach (taking over for Dane Fife)
  • Mark Montgomery returns to MSU as recruiting coordinator (Wojcik’s previous role)
  • Austin Thornton is the new video coordinator (taking over for Drew Denisco)
  • Garrett Briningstool is now director of operations and chief of staff (taking over for David Thomas)
  • Matt McQuaid will serve as assistant director of basketball operations
  • Julian Stall moves into the director of creative video role