Izzo says Hall of Fame seems ‘far-fetched’

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Tom Izzo doesn’t think about reaching the Hall of Fame.

He never did when he first started coaching, and he didn’t when he was named one of 14 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.

As Michigan State prepared to play Ohio State on Tuesday, Izzo was asked to reflect on the possibility of joining the best in the game.

“I don’t even know if it was on a wish list because it just seemed so far-fetched,” Izzo said.

“What has been the greatest thing that has happened to me since they told me that, is every once in a while when I let myself go ... I just kind of remember back all the great teams and the guys that have helped me get to here. It’s why I feel my job is to help them get to their dreams and goals.

“The difference with this is, I’m not sure it was a dream. I’m not sure if it was a goal. It was almost like too far out there to be a dream and thank God for the guys that got me here, the assistant coaches and everybody else.”

This year’s class will be announced April 4 in Houston.

There’s a chance Izzo would be coaching that night in the national championship game, and if he is, he’ll be going for his second title.

But that is just one of the reasons he’s up for induction. Seven Final Four appearances are supplemented by seven Big Ten titles, four Big Ten tournament championships and 18 straight NCAA Tournament bids.

But, Izzo emphasized none of it would have been possible without some of the best players.

“I think about some of the people that I know that are in there and sometimes I say I don’t deserve to be in there in that group and that’s not humble, that’s real,” he said.

“We’ve accomplished some great things thanks to the players ... and so like everybody else, sometimes individual accolades come with team success. If we were 300-300, I could’ve coached every bit as good and wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

“I understand that the chance of getting there is due to what players have really done for you and what a cool, cool thing that you know that’s the reason you have a chance to be there.

“You can be a good guy. You can be a great coach, but if you aren’t winning a lot of games and doing some incredible things, you aren’t getting there.”

Plugging Valentine

The Michigan State athletic communications department is doing what it can to remind voters Denzel Valentine should be considered for not only Big Ten player of the year, but national player of the year.

The senior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He has at least 20 points and 10 assists in each of the last three games, the second major conference player to accomplish that feat in the last 20 years.

This week, communications officials sent out a multipurpose tool that serves as a flashlight, bottle opener and knife — it shows Valentine’s versatility — to 500 media members and coaches who vote.

“I thought it was brilliant on their part,” Izzo said. “That expresses the versatility in what he does. ... Individual goals are always something we strive for our players to accomplish.

“I’m not just a team, team, team, team guy, ’cause I believe those individual goals lead to team success. And sometimes team success helps with individual goals.”

Izzo retorts

On Monday, Izzo had a sarcastic response to a rumor he was sitting Valentine earlier this season to keep his team from peaking at the wrong time and that Valentine wasn’t out for four games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

“There’s a rumor out there that let Denzel go just because, and that one is true, I didn’t want that pressure — and so we did fake that injury,” Izzo said.

“Because you know me, I’m not a guy that enjoys pressure, and so, think how ridiculous that is. I hope the guy didn’t graduate from anywhere.”

The person who said it, sarcastically, was former Ohio State walk-on and author Mark Titus.

“Oh, he played?” Izzo said. “Oh, ew, geez. That’s even more different.”