Point-Counterpoint: Who Would You Take, Izzo or Coach K?

By Staff Writer Elan-Paolo DeCarlo and Campus Correspondent John DeVecchis

This season boasts one of the best Final Fours in recent memory. Kentucky comes in undefeated, Wisconsin is looking for revenge, Michigan State is doing Michigan State stuff and Duke is here because they always are. It’s Duke. One thing these teams all have in common is their superior coaching. But who’s the best coach here? We tried to figure it out.

John: This year Tom Izzo will lead an unconventional Michigan St. team to the Final Four for the seventh time since 1999. Even more impressive, 2015 marks the 18th year in a row that Michigan State has gone dancing–talk about consistency. In those 13 years, the Spartans have reached 13 Sweet 16s and nine Elite Eights. While Izzo only cut down the nets in 2000, his consistency in March puts him atop this list of heavyweight coaches.

One of the most impressive aspects of the job Tom Izzo has done in East Lansing is the ability to work with what he has. By no means are the players at Michigan State bad, but the talent levels between the Duke Blue Devils and the Spartans is simply not comparable. Eighteen current Duke players are in the NBA compared to a mere six for the Spartans. Similarly, there have been 11 different Duke first team All-Americans and only three first team All-Americans since Izzo took over.

Elan: When discussing the best coaches in college basketball, the conversation begins and ends with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. With over 1,000 wins and four national championships, he is the most successful coach of the modern era, and it can be argued that he’s above John Wooden. This season, like many of the previous 35 at Duke, has been another resounding triumph. Coach K brought in three top recruits, Jahlil Okafor, Justice Winslow and Tyus Jones, to lead the Blue Devils to the Final Four for the 12th time in his career. To put that in perspective, Izzo, John Calipari and Bo Ryan have only reached a combined 15 Final Fours. Coach K is simply in a class by himself. There is no proper comparison. He’s the best coach in America, by a great amount.

John: Tom Izzo is eight years younger than Coach K. While to many this may appear to be irrelevant, it is not. At Izzo’s pace that timespan is long enough for him to accumulate three more Final Four appearances and likely win another national championship. One quality the best coach is the NCAA must have is being able to pull out the big games. Coach K and Duke have lost twice in the past five years in the round of 64 to low caliber teams such as Lehigh and Mercer. Furthermore, in their last nine appearances the Duke Blue Devils are just 3-6 in big Sweet 16 matchups. Comparatively, Michigan St. has won their big games. Tom Izzo has a 9-4 record in the Sweet 16. Just one time in the past 10 years has Izzo failed to make it out of the round of 64, in a two-point loss to UCLA. Izzo has found a way to get it done more often and more reliably than Coach K.

Elan: That’s a fair argument, with some truth. Izzo has been a more successful tournament coach lately than Krzyzewski. However, there’s more to coaching than just NCAA tournament success. Since the 1995-96 season, Duke has won 20 plus games every year. They’ve finished no lower than fourth in the ACC, with the exception of the 2006-07 season. Over the course of his tenure, 48 Blue Devils have been drafted, 28 of them coming in the first round. Kyrie Irving and Elton Brand are two Dukies that have gone first overall in the draft. Coach K has built a self-sustaining factory on Tobacco Road. All they produce are wins and NBA talent. Recently, Bleacher Report rated Duke as the most successful program by the strength of its current NBA talent.

John: Tom Izzo is a lovable man, and that goes a long way in this industry. His captivating quotes and limitless charisma make him a fan favorite far outside of Michigan. Izzo has the numbers to back it all up. Tom is an eight-time Coach of the Year, seven time Big 10 champion and impressively graduates 83 percent of his players. In a 2014 ESPN article, Izzo placed one spot ahead of Coach K on the list of greatest coaches in the NCAA. Ultimately, two wins in Indianapolis this year will go a long way on either coach’s resume.

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