October 23, 2014
Off the record

A coach who cares

By Jim Grisso|Special to the Independent
Email Jim
Posted

It’s evident why Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is successful in the game of basketball. He sincerely cares about his student-athletes -- on and off the court. And he cares dearly about his home state of Michigan.

The coach revealed Tom Izzo the human being during the impressive run the Spartans made to the final game of the NCAA championship game Monday night in Detroit. In his heart, he wanted to reach that pinnacle of success as much for the entire state of Michigan as for his team and university.

Because the NCAA Final Four was to be played “at home” in Detroit in 2009, he started visualizing leading his team there a long time ago. Holding a very high profile job in a state rocked more harshly than any other by the economic recession, he thought he could give all Michiganders something to cheer about for a change, if only for a relatively short period of time.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Izzo..

Coach Izzo is from the small town of Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan where the majority of residents don’t have much in terms of material things. However, most of them feel blessed with what they do have, not the least of which is they live in what is lovingly referred to by us northern Michiganders as “God’s Country.” I’ve never met Tom Izzo, but I would assume he “gets it” when it comes to the truly important things in life, in large part because of his childhood environment.

Mr. Izzo truly stands out in the ranks of big-time college coaches, not just for his fabulous winning record, but because he sees the big picture. For him, it’s not just about victories, making a huge amount of money, then moving on to greener pastures (like some coaches we know about).

By the way, his UP upbringing was not the only thing that followed him to Ford Field. So did the floor on which the Spartans played in the Final Four.

My son Chad Hamina, who works for AJD Forest Products in Grayling, gave me a tip about the fact the court was manufactured in the UP from Michigan-harvested wood.

According to the Michigan Forest Council, the floor was assembled from renewable, Michigan-grown maple and assembled at the Connor Sports Flooring facility in Amasa (a Yooper stone’s throw from Izzo’s hometown of Ironwood). Actually, the Michigan forest products industry has been an ongoing partner with the NCAA in providing flooring for premier sporting events.

Connor Floor, founded in 1872, provides comprehensive indoor sports flooring and outdoor sports surfacing solutions for residential, community-based, educational and commercial customers all over the country. The Connor mill started manufacturing flooring in 1976 and employs 135 people. That’s what I like to hear: JOBS.

Coach Izzo said he hoped he could give our state one shining moment. You don’t have to be a Spartan supporter or even a sports fan to soak in this positive ray of sunshine (heck, I’m the biggest Go Blue! Michigan Wolverines guy you’ll ever meet, but I was on this Spartans bandwagon big time -- it makes me feel good that a team from our state was able to achieve this much success).

What the Spartans accomplished in this tournament gives us not only a distraction from our daily struggles. Their demonstration of teamwork and strong determination tells us we can help overcome big obstacles in our lives.

Coach Izzo and his team also emphasized the importance of hard work, which has been demonstrated in our state fore more than a century, from the auto worker in Detroit to the logger in Ironwood.

Lesson learned here: it’s all about Michiganders working together for the betterment of our state, which we love so much. If we do that, we’ll all be winners like Coach Izzo.

Copyright © 2014, Sunrise Publishing. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.