The Him

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 10, 2009

This summer, I am working on a little research project examining the career paths of college basketball coaches,. My love of college basketball began on a cold January day in the mid-1970s, when my parents took me to a game at Jenison Fieldhouse on the campus of Michigan State University. MSU was playing Iowa, and Terry Furlow, MSU's best player, was unstoppable, scoring 50 points (a MSU record that still stands to this day). I was hooked. I implored my parents to get season tickets and in 1977-1978, and 1978-1979, I was able to regularly watch Earvin Johnson use his magic to ultimately win a national championship.

I attended MSU from 1985-1989 and quickly joined the Spartan Spirit (the precursor to today's Izzone). Once again, it was a joy to watch the skill of Scott Skiles, one of the best players ever to put on a Spartan uniform.
And, I have been extremely fortunate to have seen all five Final Four appearances of the MSU/Tom Izzo era, including the national championship, in person (thanks calibadger!). Speaking of which...

I continue to watch Spartan basketball, and am constantly amazed at what Tom Izzo has done with the MSU program. In April 2000, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was on top of the basketball world. Flanked by Assistant coaches Mike Garland, Brian Gregory, and Stan Heath, Izzo’s Spartans won the Men’s Basketball NCAA Championship.
These assistants can be seen as akin to senior management in the roles they carry out, from assuming head coaching duties when a coach is fired, falls ill or is ejected from the game, recruiting, to focusing on a particular aspect of the game, such as defense. This top management team had continued success returning to the Final Four in 2001. Spurred by this success, the assistant coaches decided to strike out on their own as other universities sought to emulate what Izzo accomplished in East Lansing. Stan Heath left for Kent State at the end of 2002 season, and Brian Gregory and Mike Garland left for DaytonCleveland State, respectively, in 2003. I began to wonder what impact that change would have?

Most studies of top management teams focus on what happens when the CEO leaves, or there is wholesale change, but there is little work being conducted on what happens when key top management players leave, while the CEO remains intact.

As new assistant coaches enter and former assistant coaches depart, will the team become more similar or dissimilar as a result of the change? Further, what will be the impact of these changes on performance? Will new assistant coaches quickly be subsumed into the head coach's style of play, or will the new assistant coach(es) provide wrinkles that might enhance (or detract) from team success? What will the impact of the previous assistant or head coaching experience have on performance?

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