PHOENIX – Watching his team commit the same mistake for the third time in less than a minute, Louisville coach Rick Pitino screams, “Stop!,” shakes his head in disgust and moves the players into the position he expected them to be in.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo marches around players much taller than he is, clapping and barking out orders, imploring them to run faster and work harder.
On the same court about an hour apart, Pitino and Izzo provided a few dozen fans at US Airways Center a glimpse into what it’s like to play for two of the most demanding – and successful coaches – in college basketball.
“Both of them really demand toughness,” MSU forward Draymond Green said Wednes- day. “And both of them expect everything to be perfect.”
Today’s West Regional semifinal features two of the nation’s best short-turnaround coaches, great basketball minds who thrive on the adapt-on- the-fly nature of the tourney.
Izzo has been the king of consistency during his 17 seasons at MSU, leading the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including three straight from 1999-2001, along with a national championship in 2000. He’s led Michigan State to the NCAA tournament 14 straight years and into the round of 16 in 10 of the past 15 seasons. His teams rarely lose as the favorite.
The Spartans famously lost to mid-major George Mason in the 2006 tournament as a No. 6 seed and to Nevada two years earlier as a seventh seed. All of Michigan State’s other losses have come either to a higher seed or in the Final Four.
Pitino, meanwhile, has gone to the Final Four five times and is the first coach to take three different teams there, starting with Providence’s improbable run in 1987. Pitino also led Kentucky to the 1986 national championship and took Louis- ville to the Final Four in 2005.
Louisville has won at least 20 games in all but one of Pitino’s 11 seasons (19 his first year) and been to the NCAA tourney nine of the last 10 years.