It’s now been 19 years and counting since Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team won an NCAA championship, as the Spartans fell to Texas Tech in their Final Four matchup over the weekend. Before the loss, Izzo did some reflecting on his career, and admitted that securing that elusive second title would give him “validation” as a coach.
“I’d say they’re right,” Izzo told the Detroit Free Press of fans who say he needs to win another title. “Because I need to validate it for me. I don’t need to validate it for them. I have my own goals. And I have my own aspirations of what I want to do.”
Winning multiple titles as a college head coach is incredibly difficulty, especially when the postseason consists of a handful of sudden death matchups. That’s why what Florida did, winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, is such an incredible feat. But Billy Donovan, who coached those Gator teams to their two titles, had a very different perspective when he was asked about Izzo’s comments, and whether that second title gave him a sense of validation.
“I probably was a lot like Tom earlier on where, you’re 28 years old and you become a head coach, you’re trying to validate yourself, you’re trying to prove yourself,” Donovan said. “After that experience (of winning back to back titles) was over with, I was depressed, because I lost total sight of what it’s all about.”
Donovan went on to say that he realized winning titles didn’t change his life in the way he maybe thought it would before achieving it, and because of that, losing sight of the relationships he’d built and the camaraderie of the team affected him deeply.
“At the end of the day, if it’s all about the ring and the trophy, you lose the most valuable thing,” Donovan said. “And it’s the group of people and the relationships that are established.”
As Donovan guides his Oklahoma City Thunder squad into what’s going to be a difficult first round playoff series in the Western Conference, getting to hear that type of perspective from a coach that’s been at his profession for a long time is incredibly profound.