Feb 20, 2012
The Men Behind Michigan State’s Head Coach

Lansing State Journal, Joe Rexrode

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20120219/GW/302190172/msu-basketball-coach-assistants-Izzo?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

East Lansing, Mich.—Michigan State’s assistant coaches do individual scouting reports before each game, with quick-hit descriptions of the key players on the opposing team – such as “likes to go left” or “aggressive offensive rebounder.”

Mike Garland remembers typing up a few on Dane Fife. Tough, smart player. Good defender. Can’t give him open 3-point looks.

“And before that, I really remember recruiting him, Garland said. He was a really good player.”

A 1998 McDonald’s All-American and Michigan’s Mr. Basketball from Clarkston, Fife opted for Bobby Knight and Indiana over Tom Izzo’s young MSU program and Michigan – where his father and older brother played. Izzo finally landed him over the summer, luring him from his head coaching job at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to replace Mark Montgomery, who left for the head coaching job at Northern Illinois.

Now Dwayne Stephens, Garland and Fife work on game plans and scouting reports together, and most of them seem to be doing the trick – the No. 7 Spartans (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) are surpassing preseason expectations and continuing a Big Ten title chase today at Purdue (17-9, 7-6).

Izzo and his players get most of the attention, but Izzo has praised his tacticians (the staff also includes video coordinator Jordan Ott and assistant coordinator Doug Herner) after many victories this season for wrinkles that helped produce them.

“Lately, D.J. (Stephens) has probably stepped up as much as anybody, Izzo said. The scouting those guys have done, Dane spends a lot of time in D.J.’s office. And I think those guys deserve some credit, whether my team gives it to them or not, because they’ve come up with a lot of things.”

This season marks the first staff change at MSU since 2007, when Jim Boylen left to become Utah’s head coach and Garland returned to MSU from an assistant gig under Matt Doherty at Southern Methodist University. Previously, Garland was an Izzo assistant from 1996 to 2003, then Cleveland State’s head coach from 2003-06.

Stephens is technically the top assistant, working in his ninth season under Izzo. Like Montgomery, he was recruited in the late 1980s by Izzo to play under Jud Heathcote. Garland and Izzo were teammates at Northern Michigan in the 1970s.

So Fife is the first real program “outsider” since Doug Wojcik came from North Carolina in 2003 – spending two seasons under Izzo before taking the Tulsa head coaching job that he still holds.

“He kind of brings a different type of style, MSU senior forward Draymond Green said of Fife. You can just tell he was brought up in a different system. Not necessarily that everything is just that much different, but the way he teaches things is different from the way it was taught (before), yet effective.”

Fife was a defensive-minded player and is a defensive-minded coach. He does a lot with defense and fills Montgomery’s role in coaching MSU’s guards. Stephens focuses on the big men and those two trade off each game (but help each other) on the opposing scouting report.

Garland scouts MSU’s players and tendencies and serves as a primary motivator. The night before each game, he gathers the players and delivers inspirational messages with stories of characters – with names such as “Googy Whitfield” and “Cockeyed Charlie White” — from his childhood neighborhood near Ypsilanti.

“We enjoy one another, Garland, 57, said of the players. For me, they keep me young. Sometimes they wonder if the story is true, but it’s a story and they love it.”

Stephens, Montgomery and Garland worked well together for four seasons, but Garland and Stephens said Fife’s transition has been smooth.

“Coach (Izzo) has a blueprint and whether it’s the players or the staff, you kind of plug those guys in, they kind of learn the system and you roll with the punches, Stephens said. Dane’s younger (32) and he definitely brings a different perspective and different energy.”

“It’s tough, Garland said. I’ve been a head coach just like he has, and now all the sudden you’re an assistant and the final decisions aren’t yours. But he’s done a tremendous job of making sure he understands what our philosophy is, and doing everything he can to keep that chemistry going. And I’ll tell you one thing, his enthusiasm is off the charts.”

Fife has known Izzo for a long time, but not like he’s come to know him in the past few months. Izzo is intensely demanding of his players and assistants in practices in games, yet Fife said Izzo also has been open to his suggestions.

Fife’s personal scouting report on Izzo did not include the one thing he has come to realize matters as much as anything.

“One thing that’s really surprised me, especially on the peripheral, is how much value and importance is put on being a close-knit group here, Fife said. D.J. and Mike Garland took me in and said ‘This is how we do things.’ And that was important to me, that meant it means a lot. I think it shows this season, the value that’s put on being a team.”

Izzo’s Assistants Keep Michigan State Ticking

Lansing State Journal, Joe Rexrode

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20120219/GW/302190172/msu-basketball-coach-assistants-Izzo?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

East Lansing, Mich.—Michigan State’s assistant coaches do individual scouting reports before each game, with quick-hit descriptions of the key players on the opposing team – such as “likes to go left” or “aggressive offensive rebounder.”

Mike Garland remembers typing up a few on Dane Fife. Tough, smart player. Good defender. Can’t give him open 3-point looks.

“And before that, I really remember recruiting him, Garland said. He was a really good player.”

A 1998 McDonald’s All-American and Michigan’s Mr. Basketball from Clarkston, Fife opted for Bobby Knight and Indiana over Tom Izzo’s young MSU program and Michigan – where his father and older brother played. Izzo finally landed him over the summer, luring him from his head coaching job at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to replace Mark Montgomery, who left for the head coaching job at Northern Illinois.

Now Dwayne Stephens, Garland and Fife work on game plans and scouting reports together, and most of them seem to be doing the trick – the No. 7 Spartans (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) are surpassing preseason expectations and continuing a Big Ten title chase today at Purdue (17-9, 7-6).

Izzo and his players get most of the attention, but Izzo has praised his tacticians (the staff also includes video coordinator Jordan Ott and assistant coordinator Doug Herner) after many victories this season for wrinkles that helped produce them.

“Lately, D.J. (Stephens) has probably stepped up as much as anybody, Izzo said. The scouting those guys have done, Dane spends a lot of time in D.J.’s office. And I think those guys deserve some credit, whether my team gives it to them or not, because they’ve come up with a lot of things.”

This season marks the first staff change at MSU since 2007, when Jim Boylen left to become Utah’s head coach and Garland returned to MSU from an assistant gig under Matt Doherty at Southern Methodist University. Previously, Garland was an Izzo assistant from 1996 to 2003, then Cleveland State’s head coach from 2003-06.

Stephens is technically the top assistant, working in his ninth season under Izzo. Like Montgomery, he was recruited in the late 1980s by Izzo to play under Jud Heathcote. Garland and Izzo were teammates at Northern Michigan in the 1970s.

So Fife is the first real program “outsider” since Doug Wojcik came from North Carolina in 2003 – spending two seasons under Izzo before taking the Tulsa head coaching job that he still holds.

“He kind of brings a different type of style, MSU senior forward Draymond Green said of Fife. You can just tell he was brought up in a different system. Not necessarily that everything is just that much different, but the way he teaches things is different from the way it was taught (before), yet effective.”

Fife was a defensive-minded player and is a defensive-minded coach. He does a lot with defense and fills Montgomery’s role in coaching MSU’s guards. Stephens focuses on the big men and those two trade off each game (but help each other) on the opposing scouting report.

Garland scouts MSU’s players and tendencies and serves as a primary motivator. The night before each game, he gathers the players and delivers inspirational messages with stories of characters – with names such as “Googy Whitfield” and “Cockeyed Charlie White” — from his childhood neighborhood near Ypsilanti.

“We enjoy one another, Garland, 57, said of the players. For me, they keep me young. Sometimes they wonder if the story is true, but it’s a story and they love it.”

Stephens, Montgomery and Garland worked well together for four seasons, but Garland and Stephens said Fife’s transition has been smooth.

“Coach (Izzo) has a blueprint and whether it’s the players or the staff, you kind of plug those guys in, they kind of learn the system and you roll with the punches, Stephens said. Dane’s younger (32) and he definitely brings a different perspective and different energy.”

“It’s tough, Garland said. I’ve been a head coach just like he has, and now all the sudden you’re an assistant and the final decisions aren’t yours. But he’s done a tremendous job of making sure he understands what our philosophy is, and doing everything he can to keep that chemistry going. And I’ll tell you one thing, his enthusiasm is off the charts.”

Fife has known Izzo for a long time, but not like he’s come to know him in the past few months. Izzo is intensely demanding of his players and assistants in practices in games, yet Fife said Izzo also has been open to his suggestions.

Fife’s personal scouting report on Izzo did not include the one thing he has come to realize matters as much as anything.

“One thing that’s really surprised me, especially on the peripheral, is how much value and importance is put on being a close-knit group here, Fife said. D.J. and Mike Garland took me in and said ‘This is how we do things.’ And that was important to me, that meant it means a lot. I think it shows this season, the value that’s put on being a team.”






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