On a night historically headlined by grandiose entrances from Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans coach instead opted to simply walk into the arena with his wife and children to kick off the 2016-17 basketball season at MSU’s annual Michigan State Madness event Friday night.
Following the introduction of the men’s basketball players — who entered wearing suits and tuxedos by walking and dancing their way through the crowd — MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis directed the nearly 12,000 in attendance to watch a video honoring Izzo and his rise from his hometown of Iron Mountain, a small city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
After the video, Izzo entered Breslin Center to loud applause, sporting his orange Hall of Fame jacket. At the end of a nearly seven-minute speech to the crowd, in which Izzo reminisced about the spectacular entrances he’s had to this event over the years, he turned his attention to the future.
Izzo removed his NCAA Championship ring and his Hall of Fame jacket, and walked over and handed them to his wife, Lupe Izzo. In their place, Izzo donned a white Spartans practice jacket and a whistle.
“That jacket and that ring is either gonna be worn in retirement or death,” Izzo said. “From now on, this is what you’re going to see us in. We’re going to work and we’re going to try to do what we do at Michigan State.”
“We’re going to try to hang another banner on that side,” Izzo said as he pointed to the row of Big Ten Championship banners hanging from the ceiling of Breslin Center.
“And I promise you we’re going to work our [butt] off to hang another banner on that side,” he said, pointing to the part of Breslin Center where the Final Four and National Championship banners were hanging.
When Izzo put on his jacket and whistle, he referenced wearing them for another 8-10 years, perhaps hinting at how long the Hall of Fame coach plans on continuing his coaching career.
After a short scrimmage by the women’s basketball team, the men’s basketball team returned to the court, having exchanged the black suits and green ties for green and gray practice jerseys. They scrimmaged for about twenty minutes.
Michigan State’s graduate transfer student-athlete Ben Carter missed the evening’s activities due to the surgery he underwent following his knee injury from a couple weeks ago.
... Michigan State women’s basketball player Aerial Powers — who decided to forego her senior season and enter the WNBA draft following her junior season — joined the women’s team following its introductions earlier. Women’s head coach Suzy Merchant congratulated Powers for following her dreams and invited her to kiss the Spartans head logo at midcourt, as is the custom for Spartans seniors following the last home game of their career.
... Following the scrimmage, event MC Al Martin announced to the crowd that Izzo told him next year he’ll do whatever the Spartans fans want him to do as his entrance, short of jumping out of an airplane.
... Hundreds of fans waited in line to get autographs from the men’s and women’s players in the newly-renovated Breslin Center concourse prior to the official program at 9:30 p.m. Fans saw the progress being made on the Breslin remodel, including new concessions options and a brighter, expanded concourse.
David Harns is a freelance writer.