I was fortunate to spend the past week traveling around the country to meet with a number of MSU alums. I spent time in Orange County, California, Chicago, and Tampa. My first two stops at our various alumni events were filled with Spartan fans from across the country. However, the Tampa event proved to be a phenomenal way for me to end my journey. They organized a breakfast with all of our Florida Clubs and brought Coach Izzo in as the keynote speaker. It’s always special to hear Coach Izzo speak. I couldn’t help but sit there and take in the wisdom he imparted on the group. This particular story really stuck with me on my drive into work this morning.
The year was 2000. Michigan State had just won the National Championship. There was excitement within the Spartan community as well as around college basketball. Coach Izzo was accompanying Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson to California for the presentation of the Wooden Award, which goes to the most outstanding player in the country each year. Before entering the awards presentation Coach Izzo saw John Wooden sitting down with a group of UCLA legends. Coach Wooden came over to Izzo and said: “Congratulations, Tom, you have just joined the fraternity of 40.” Coach Izzo thought for a second, turned to Bill Walton and said, “What is he talking about?” Walton turned looked at Coach Izzo and said: “Only 40 Coaches have won a national championship.” The thought of being a part of that elite fraternity sent a chill down Izzo’s spine. That was until Walton proceeded to say Coach Wooden has 10.
Winning a national championship separates Coach Izzo from the rest of the coaching world. But winning one wasn’t enough to him. After doing a little research, he realized that the number of coaches who had won two national championships was only 8 or 9. Winning one more would take him to the next threshold of elite coaches in college basketball.
This story just showed me once again that you should never settle for being good; strive to separate yourself from the crowd and become great.