Cleveland State game renews friendly rivalry

"He is the toughest coach and most loyal guy I have ever been around, he was like that when we played together and he is like that now. His loyalty is second to none." --Tom Izzo on Cleveland State head coach Mike Garland.

EAST LANSING - When Michigan State (7-2) plays the Cleveland State Vikings (2-4) on Friday night, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo will be facing his former assistant coach and fellow 1977 Northern Michigan alum Mike Garland.

Garland served as Izzo's assistant at Michigan State from 1996-2003 and made a name for himself during his tenure in East Lansing with his recruiting and development of young talent.

"He is the toughest coach and most loyal guy I have ever been around, he was like that when we played together and he is like that now," said Izzo. "His loyalty is second to none."

Garland also supervised Spartan off-season individual workouts, helping young players like Mateen Cleaves, Andre Hutson, Morris Peterson, Zach Randolph, Jason Richardson and Marcus Taylor develop into NBA players.

"What I loved about him was that the players loved him and he always talked to them about life skills and situations," said Izzo. "He (Garland) spent a lot of time with Mateen (Cleaves) and Morris (Peterson) and when we first got everybody there was a lot of work to be done and he spent a lot of time working on it."

Garland's great reputation led him to step into his own head coaching position at Cleveland State in the fall of 2003. He is entering his third year as coach of the Vikings with a record of 15-46.

Izzo never takes for granted what Garland has done for Michigan State basketball, "I love what he did for me. When he left I missed him and I still think he will be successful," he said. "Every game he would write me up a big scouting assessment of what we need to do for every game. With him we started our self-assessment where we scouted our opponents and I have carried on that tradition."

Garland was a three-year letterman in basketball for the Northern Michigan Wildcats. While being out due to injury for his sophomore season, Garland befriended a young walk-on Tom Izzo.

From then on, the two have been lifelong friends, winning a National Championship together in 2000.

While Izzo hates to schedule teams that are coached by any of his six former assistants that currently hold division 1 head coaching positions.

"I don't enjoy and don't want to do it but in certain situations if it helps that individual that is more important to me than anything but if a team like Cleveland State can schedule a team like Michigan State, it helps them," said Izzo.

Izzo is 1-1 in his coaching career against his former assistants, having split a pair of games against Stan Joplin at Toledo.

Although Izzo will be facing his best friend of over 30 years, Izzo stated that, "Of all six of them, Mike would be the guy I would like to play the least because I have known him the longest."

Spartan Nation Top Stories