ATLANTA -- I ended my shadowing of Michigan State's Tom Izzo late Friday, then took a flight south so I could attend an event in Atlanta today and tomorrow before heading to South Carolina for the Nike Peach Jam. Far as experiences go, the past three days could not have been better. Izzo was the perfect host, and though the time spent in gyms was worthwhile, the best parts of the trip came during conversations at breakfast, lunch or dinner, in cars, vans or planes.
When you spend 15 hours a day with somebody you tend to talk about everything.
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And what I found most interesting is that while the job of a high-major coach has plenty of perks -- like weekly paychecks that eclipse most people's annual earnings -- it does require men (not just Izzo, all men) to sacrifice something personally. I guess I've known this for a while, and I can relate it to my own life, too. But it was magnified during this trip while I listened to Izzo take calls from all sorts of people, including his teenage son.
Obviously, I couldn't hear what was said on the other end of the phone. But when I heard Izzo one time say "in just a few days," I knew what was just asked. The question: When are you coming home?
"It's hard," Izzo later told me. "You always feel guilty."
And that's the struggle. Success in this sport requires tremendous focus and a work ethic that borders on stupid. Most coaches have wives and children who barely see them. The kids are in class till 3:30 or so in the afternoon during the school year, and the coaches don't get home till after 7 on good days. Then comes summer and the kids are out of school, but the coaches are on the road most of July, and it's not a stretch to suggest that a hard-working coach will see a 17-year-old recruit he'll never sign more than he sees or talks to his own son or daughter. That's just sort of the life these guys sign up for.
Again, they make lots of money.
You'd probably trade jobs with any of them.
But it's clearly not the simplest way to get really wealthy.
(For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.)