Tom Izzo back at practice after COVID-19 battle: 'This virus is no joke'

Ryan Young
·Writer
·3 min read

After a two-week battle with COVID-19, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo returned to practice on Monday — just two days before the Spartans’ season-opening game on Wednesday.

Izzo was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Nov. 9, and isolated at home while battling mild symptoms.

“While some people who have tested positive have not been affected too much by it, I am here to tell you that this virus is no joke and everyone must take this seriously,” Izzo said in a statement.

“It was hard for me to be away from my team and our players, but I also understood the challenges associated with this virus and the need for me to isolate and follow proper protocol to ensure that I was healthy enough to return to work.”

Izzo has been at Michigan State since 1995, and compiled a 628-241 record there over his 25 seasons with the Spartans. He’s led them to the NCAA tournament in all but two of his seasons there (excluding last year when the tournament was canceled completely), reached the Final Four eight times and won a national title in 2000.

The 65-year-old had been coaching a bit from home while isolating, thanks to cameras they set up, and he would even call players during practice to talk to them.

"I’ve stayed in touch with my players as much as I could, but I am looking forward to seeing them in person today,” Izzo said. “I was really impressed with the hard work they have put in during this time. We are all looking forward to the start of the season.”

Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo returned to practice on Monday after battling the coronavirus for two weeks. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Izzo latest college coach battling COVID-19

Izzo is one of several prominent college coaches who have contracted the coronavirus ahead of the season.

Baylor coach Scott Drew, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis and Tennessee coach Rick Barnes all announced that they had tested positive in recent days.

Several programs — including Duke, Arizona, Baylor and more — all canceled their season openers due to outbreaks, the UConn women’s program suspended all activities on Monday and Florida A&M women’s basketball decided not to hold a season at all.

The onslaught of cancellations, postponements and more don’t bode well for the season — which is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday after having already been delayed from Nov. 10.

There have been more than 12.4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Monday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 257,000 deaths attributed to it. The country repeatedly set new case records last week, and is averaging more than 171,000 new cases a day. The massive spike in cases even caused the Centers for Disease Control to advise people not to travel over Thanksgiving.

Though a lot can happen between now and the NCAA tournament, college basketball is clearly struggling to contain the coronavirus — and the 2020-21 season hasn’t even started yet.

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