At the helm of both teams are two great coaches who just flat-out get it. They know how to win, they know how to relate to their players, and they know how to create a program that is respected and cherished by their communities and fan bases.
This is a direct reflection of two coaches doing the right thing. Let’s look at their illustrious careers.
Tom Izzo – Michigan State University
There is no man at MSU that is more recognizable than Tom Izzo. The guy can’t even go for a run around campus without students addressing him with the usual pleasantries (“Hey, Coach!” “Good luck tonight, Coach!” etc). Regardless of the time of day or situation that he’s in, Izzo will always greet each student with a handshake or wave of his hand, and said student will promptly tweet or update his Facebook status with his experience.
I know from experience – I’ve done it at least three times.
Regardless of how nice of a guy he is, Izzo is a hell of a coach. In 1995 Izzo took over the head-coaching position at MSU from Jud Heathcote, after serving as his assistant for 12 years. Izzo had big shoes to fill, as Heathcote had coached at MSU for 19 years and earned an NCAA Championship.
Izzo filled those shoes and then some.
Since Izzo has taken over, he has won one NCAA Championship, made it to the Final Four six times, won six Big Ten Championships and was named National Coach of the Year in 1998. He has recruited 11 Mr. Basketball award winners and has had 12 players drafted into the NBA.
All of this has added up to 383 wins in 16 seasons with a decent .704 win percentage.
Not too shabby of a resume, if you ask me.
Roy Williams – University of North Carolina
While Izzo has manned the helm of one team for his entire head-coaching career, Williams has coached at two prominent basketball schools over his career.
Let’s start off with his years at Kansas.
From 1988 to 2003, the Kansas Jayhawks were a basketball powerhouse. In his 15 seasons there, Williams amassed a 418-101 record. Do the math. That’s a whopping .805 winning percentage. He won nine Big Eight/Big 12 regular season championships and appeared in four Final Fours and two NCAA Championship games.
KU was the winningest college program in the NCAA in the 1990s, but Williams was never able to bring home an NCAA Championship to Kansas.
In 2003 Williams left Kansas to coach at UNC after taking his Jayhawks to the NCAA Championship, only to lose to a Syracuse team that was led by freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony.
The move made sense. He had North Carolina ties from being an assistant coach under the great Dean Smith from 1978–1988.
Williams’ beginning marked an end to an era of disappointment in Chapel Hill. Matt Doherty’s teams from 2000–2003 could only muster one tournament appearance and saw the end to various school records (31 straight 20-win seasons, 35 straight seasons of finishing third or higher in the ACC, etc.).
Upon his arrival at UNC, Williams hit the ground running and promptly turned UNC back into the perennial powerhouse that it once was.
Since Williams has been coaching at UNC, he has a 225-62 record with a .783 win percentage. He has won two NCAA Championships (2005 and 2009), five ACC Regular Season Championships, two ACC Tournament Championships and has appeared in three Final Fours.
Between his stints at Kansas and North Carolina, Williams has coached 27 NBA players and was named AP Coach of the Year twice, becoming only the second coach to win the award at two different schools.
Oh, and there’s the minor fact that he was inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Enjoy the game and take in all of the one-of-a-kind opportunities that the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic has to offer, but also appreciate the fact that you will be able to watch two of the greatest coaches currently in college go up against each other.
I know I will.