Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has developed quite a coaching tree in his time at East Lansing.
One of his former assistants, Brian Gregory, took another step in his career when he agreed to become Georgia Tech’s basketball coach today.
Gregory coached with Izzo on two separate occasions, first as co-assistants under Jud Heathcote from 1990-95, before Izzo was promoted to head coach.
Gregory left a year later before returning to assist Izzo from 1999-2003. He parlayed that success into his first head coaching job at Dayton, where he’s coached the past eight years.
Izzo spoke with Wes Durham on 790AM on Monday and then with the AJC later in the day. Here is a paraphrased transcript of those interviews.
Q: Are you proud to see one of your assistants move up the ladder? You and coach Heathcote can take credit for his development.
A: I’ll take credit for every win and I’ll give Jed every loss he’s had. It’s perfect.
It’s thrilling for me. I have great respect for the ACC. I have great respect for the academic side of it.
That’s why I think Brian Gregory is going to be the perfect fit. He can coach, he can recruit, he was an academic All-American.
He helped me win a national championship (2000) here so he knows how to get that done and get to Final Fours, all those things that are important as Georgia Tech moves forward.
Q: He worked for a long time for you and coach Heathcote before coming back. What coaching characteristics does he bring to the table now?
A: It’s just like a player. Can he work to get better? I don’t know if I’ve ever worked with…someone who has worked harder to accomplish things.
What Brian has over me and everyone else is he’s very smart and very, very organized. Meticulous would be a better word. He’s got a great rapport with the guys.
I realize I’m prejudiced. I know what this guy can do. He can have discipline yet still be a player’s coach. The hours he is going to work, that’s the only area I can say for sure that he’s No. 1. No one can outwork him. At the end of the day that’s the most important thing. Do you work your way through the good times, the bad times, the in-between times?
Q: At Dayton, he’s had four straight 20-win seasons, which they’ve never done.
A: You look at some of the years, they beat Louisville, they beat Pittsburgh, they played some of the best of the best. The ACC conference is good enough, but it’s very important to him to schedule good people.
I think when you start talking consistency and 20-win seasons, he’s been a model of consistency. In some leagues you don’t always get to the NCAA tournament because there’s not as many bids in those leagues. But he won the NIT and beat a UNC team that competes on an annual basis.
He knows how to get it done guys, I promise you that.
At the same time, he helped me build the program, left, and came back in time for us to win a national championship.
Q: One of the things that I know is important to you, and something he took to Dayton and folks here are excited about, is his ability to bring former players back into the program.
A: I think you are right. We’ve done a great job of it here. Magic Johnson still helps me. When you look at some of the people you have there that are still in pro basketball that are going to be important.
Even though Coach Cremins has retired and come back, I’m sure he’ll still utilize him.
I hope he doesn’t bring back Kenny Anderson and the 3-point shot that doomed us in the Sweet 16 [in 1990].
When you have a tradition of winning, you look at the Indiana over the years when Bobby Knight was there. Tom Crean is trying to do it now. The players that played there built the place. That’s the foundation of the program. If you don’t cultivate that you are the insane. The Brian Olivers of the world, the [Mark] Prices, there are so many guys, the [Dennis] Scotts, that I remember when we were playing them. Those guys are important.
He’s got a lot of cool ideas that you are going to enjoy.
[He'll] Keep working on what you’ve got and keep building on it.
That’s what Brian needs to do at Georgia Tech, keep building on it and trying to get it to a new level.
Q: You’ve stressed a lot of Gregory’s strengths, what are some things he needs to improve upon?
A: Always when you become a head coach there’s new challenges. The good thing is he has a background from being an assistant at a major program. Then again, I came as an assistant and hever head it [that experience]. It worked out well for me.
It’ll be challenge down there. He’ll have to hire some new people. Hopefully, he’ll learn some things. I’m a Paul Hewitt fan too. I think one of the problems is he had too many good players and too many of them left.
I like a lot more about him than I don’t like. One weakness he has, he’s a lot shorter than Paul and a lot shorter than most coaches so he’s going to have to look up a lot in the huddle, especially when he brings in all those big guys. [laughs]
A: How did you influence him?
A: It was one of those things when we started, that Jud left , we didn’t have a very good team and we had to start from scratch. From going to the barns to the frat houses. We were blue-collear guys. Im not sure he learned a lot from me. We were learning as we went.
He had input. My guys had input here. Steve Mariucci is one of my best friends. I’ve run the program more like a football program. The assistant coaches are head coaches at their positions. He was pretty involved here right from the start. I hope what we got from me was the work ethic. Anything can happen as evident from our Final Fours. He helped me build that, so he has the blue print for that.
I believe this is going to be a great thing for Tech and for Brian.
– Doug Roberson, AJC