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Tom Izzo has long been more than just Michigan State’s basketball coach, a title he has relished since 1995 with eight Final Fours, the 2000 national title, a runner-up in 2009 and 10 Big Ten regular season crowns.
He is a Michigan man, meaning the state of Michigan. A native of Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula, or a Yooper as they say, he has never played or coached in another state. He has been at Michigan State for four decades – the last 28 years as head coach.
3 Michigan State Students Killed
Izzo was scheduled to be coaching against Minnesota on Wednesday night. But that game was canceled because of an on-campus shooting Monday night that killed three students. Those were pre-med student Arielle Anderson of Harper Woods, Michigan, three-sport athlete Alexandria Verner of Clawson, Michigan, and Brian Fraser of Grosse Point, Michigan. Five others were wounded. Izzo and his wife Lupe visited them.
Izzo’s son Steven, a walk-on with the Spartans’ basketball team, was near the shooting when it happened.
On Wednesday night, Izzo spoke at a candlelight vigil packed with students.
“I can’t imagine what all of you are going through,” he said. “But I do know that we as a campus community can offer our support both to you and to each other. Look around. Look next to you. Shake somebody’s hand. Introduce yourself to somebody. That’s who we are, and that’s who we need to be.”
Tom Izzo Lives Michigan State
Izzo, 68, played at Northern Michigan in Marquette from 1973-77 and started his coaching career there from 1979-83 as an assistant. He came to Michigan State in 1983 to coach under Jud Heathcote and replaced him in 1995.
“I love the place. I live the place. Michigan State is my home,” he said. “Everybody thinks I am a Yooper. Yes, that is where I came from. But virtually all of my adult life, I’ve been a Spartan. I’ve seen some incredible highs and yes, unfortunately, some devastating lows. But as a Spartan, we always get through it together. Look at us all standing here tonight. We’ve come for many different reasons – to heal, to honor our victims, to stand up to fear, which you’re going to have to do a lot in your life.”
Police identified Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, as the shooting suspect. He died Monday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had no connection to the victims or Michigan State.
Michigan State Plays On At Michigan Saturday
Izzo and his team (16-9, 8-6 Big Ten) return to the court Saturday at Michigan (14-12, 8-7) on FOX at 8 p.m. As his seven-minute talk neared its end, he closed with a challenge.
“Something has to be done in our society,” he said. “Gun violence is insane right now. We all have a platform. Some are small. Some are high. But we all have a platform. And I hope each and every one of you uses your platform to help others so that other families don’t have to go through what these families are going through right now. I hope you meet the 10 people around you and become closer. The world needs it. Michigan State needs it. The grieving needs it. I need it.”
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I was with him until he said “Something has to be done in our society,” he said. “Gun violence is insane right now. We all have a platform. Some are small. Some are high”