EAST LANSING — Each spring after basketball season, Michigan State basketball assistant coach Dane Fife has an identical dialog together with his boss, Tom Izzo, concerning the future.
“I normally ask coach, ‘Do you continue to see worth in what I convey? As a result of I nonetheless see worth in being part of your employees,'” Fife mentioned just lately.
After seven seasons on employees, Fife desires to ensure he is nonetheless offering worth to this system. On the identical time, in a few years Fife has been evaluating the flip facet of that: is being at Michigan State nonetheless his most suitable choice or is there a head teaching job that is sensible to pursue?
To this point, the solutions to these questions have all the time come again the identical. Izzo sees worth in protecting Fife and his two different assistants, Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland. And people assistants, so far, have seen staying in East Lansing as their greatest transfer in comparison with different choices.
Tom Izzo says MSU’s subsequent six video games amongst hardest stretches of his tenure
The result’s a Michigan State basketball employees that is loved a outstanding stage of continuity lately. Izzo, Stephens, Fife and Garland are actually of their eighth consecutive season collectively as this system’s 4 coaches.
That run makes Michigan State’s employees an anomaly in school basketball. Of the 353 Division 1 school basketball packages, solely two have had the identical teaching employees for longer than Michigan State: St. Joseph’s, which is getting into yr 12 with the identical employees, and Iowa, getting into yr 9.
In whole, simply 10 staffs throughout the nation have been totally intact for six or extra seasons.
On high of the longevity of this employees, Michigan State has the 2 longest-tenured assistants in program historical past at present on its bench in Garland, with 19 seasons as a Michigan State assistant throughout two stints, and Stephens with 16 straight seasons.
The coaches say that have and familiarity with each other is a serious asset as they appear to maintain this system atop the Massive Ten.
“Everyone is aware of who’s doing what, it makes it somewhat simpler to get that throughout to the staff while you’re attempting to arrange for a recreation,” Stephens mentioned. “I am taking a look at one factor, Dane’s taking a look at one thing, Mike is taking a look at one thing. We have methods to cowl the entire a part of it.”
As they enter yr eight, the Spartans teaching employees has their particular duties largely ironed out. Stephens works primarily with frontcourt gamers, Fife largely with perimeter gamers. Garland, along with his on-court duties, has developed a task as a mentor for gamers off the courtroom. Spartans level guard Cassius Winston likened him to a clever uncle.
Collectively, that quartet is ready to current a united message when addressing gamers whereas nonetheless bringing their distinctive views.
“You are all the time on the identical web page, since you’ve been via it,” Garland mentioned. “So the philosophies do not differ. Youngsters are listening to the identical message on a regular basis, and we all know what Tom desires.”
Michigan State has been capable of buck the development of teaching turnover for quite a lot of causes.
Begin with Izzo, who’s getting into his 24th season as Michigan State’s head coach. His year-in and year-out success, with 21 straight NCAA Event appearances, gives a singular stage of stability each for him and his employees.
And people who report back to Izzo say that his demanding type may be troublesome however finally improves them as coaches.
“Coach Izzo’s an amazing man to work for,” Fife mentioned. “Is he laborious to work for? Sure, however we would not need it any completely different. He calls for essentially the most out of us.”
Michigan State’s greater threat of teaching turnover is for its assistants to go away to turn out to be head coaches. That occurred seven instances between 1996 and 2011, together with Garland going to Cleveland State for 3 years earlier than finally returning.
However since Mark Montgomery left to turn out to be Northern Illinois’ coach in 2011, that hasn’t occurred, partly due to commitments from the varsity.
In keeping with contracts obtained by MLive, Stephens will make $345,000 in base wage this season, Fife will make $340,000 and Garland will make $320,000. Bonuses for postseason accomplishments can add to these wage totals.
Michigan State has been aggressive in protecting these salaries aggressive within the higher echelon in school hoops: within the final 4 years, Fife’s wage has risen 76 p.c, Stephens’ has risen 66 p.c and Garland’s has risen 59 p.c.
These salaries make many Division 1 head teaching jobs a lateral transfer or a step down in pay. In keeping with the USA Right this moment wage database, no less than six coaches within the 2018 NCAA Event made $362,000 or much less.
So whereas members of Izzo’s employees hope to be head coaches, significantly the 39-year-old Fife and 47-year-old Stephens (Garland is 64), the soundness and wage in East Lansing permits them to be picky about which jobs they search to make sure they’ll go someplace with a chance to achieve success.
“I might like to be a head coach, however I do not wish to simply take a job to say that I am a head coach,” Stephens mentioned. “Michigan State is residence for me. I performed right here, I have been right here for a very long time. I believe it needs to be the fitting match.”
One more reason, although, that staffs hardly ever spend eight seasons collectively is that many head coaches see worth in occasional turnover. New coaches from time to time convey new power and contemporary concepts, so the pondering goes.
Izzo mentioned that he works to maintain issues contemporary in his program however would not have to alter his employees to take action.
“I believe you’ve got all the time bought to fret about getting stale,” Izzo mentioned. “I do not imply due to the assistants. The pinnacle coach has to fret about getting stale.”
As an alternative, Izzo has just lately introduced in former coaches to look at his program and supply suggestions. Former assistant Doug Wojcik is spending the yr with this system, observing and offering suggestions, two years after Brian Gregory did the identical.
Garland mentioned having skilled outdoors voices for the employees has confirmed priceless.
“It all the time helps to have somebody that is taking a look at it from a distinct perspective than the one we’re coming at it with,” Garland mentioned. “That does not imply that we now have to completely change. Perhaps there’s one thing in that particular person’s perspective that is going to assist us from our perspective.”
However primarily, day in and time out, it has been the identical 4 coaches doing the scouting, practices, recruiting and the whole lot else for a lot longer than most teams of their career do.
“Are there disagreements at instances? Yeah there’s disagreements,” Garland mentioned. “But when there weren’t, then it would not be trustworthy. However as soon as it is established how we will set up a state of affairs, whether or not it is on or off the courtroom, we will all be on the identical web page.”