Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo recently added five new players to his team for the 2019-20 season. They stand 6'9", 6'8", 6'7", 6'2" and ... 5'8". This, of course, begs the question: What makes a 5'8" player compelling for Izzo, a Hall of Fame coach who has led eight teams to the Final Four? The answer is simple; the 5'8" player is his son, Steven.
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press published earlier this week and a WXYZ Sports video clip, Coach Izzo told Steven that if he made his private high school's basketball team during his senior year, there'd be a spot for him on the MSU basketball team as a walk-on. Steven earned a spot on the Lansing Catholic High School team last year, so Dad Izzo, true to his word, made room for him on the MSU team this year.
As you might imagine, Izzo's decision to add his son to the MSU team has generated a lot of chatter. And his response may resonate with many working parents; “I’ve given up 18 years of my life [working at MSU] and he’s given up 18 years of his life [not seeing much of his dad in the winter]" The Free Press article continues, "Izzo wanted to be clear this isn’t simply about time. By taking his son as a walk-on, he’ll get to teach and mentor his son the way he does his players."
Many working parents would probably appreciate the opportunity to bring their kids to work more often. Many of us would like to be able to spend more time showing our kids what we do everyday in the office, in the field, or wherever our work is done. Few of us have that opportunity, even though we also make sacrifices by putting in long hours, participating in late-night phone calls with colleagues living on the other side of the world, and sometimes traveling to locations that take us away from our kids for days or weeks on end. And most of us do it for a lot less than the $4M per year that Izzo is earning.
Maybe a job where you can favor your children is something to aspire to. Maybe Izzo has earned the right to show some favoritism and reap this personal reward because of the results he's achieved. Maybe he'll be able to teach his son more on the court than is possible at the kitchen table. Maybe children of successful parents deserve special preferences. And maybe the other players will benefit from Steven's participation on the team.
Or maybe the lessons we take away from this story are as old as time: Family connections can make or break opportunies, it's often difficult to speak truth to power, and when coaches win, oversight weakens.
What do you think? What can working parents learn from this story?