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Michigan State's Tom Izzo Ties Bob Knight For Most Wins at Big Ten School

Bob Knight won 662 games while coaching at Indiana, a Big Ten record that's stood for decades. Until now, with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo tying him on Saturday with a win over Purdue.
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Way back on Jan. 4, 1996, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, then in his first season as the head coach at Michigan State, beat Bob Knight's Indiana team for his first-ever Big Ten win. 

Now, 27 years later, Izzo and Knight attached at the hip once again. Knight, who spent 29 years coaching at Indiana from 1971 to 2000, has won more games as a Big Ten coach than anyone, with 662. 

Izzo, though, caught Knight on Saturday when Michigan State beat Purdue 68-65 in East Lansing for his 662nd win at Michigan State. Izzo has an enormous amount of respect for Knight. He shared these Knight stories with me a couple of years ago.

"He and Jud (Heathcote, the former Michigan State coach who hired Izzo as an assistant in the early 1980s) were good friends,'' Izzo said. "I remember I hardly ever met Bob during my 13 years as an assistant, but the day I got the job, he was one of the first guys I got a call from.

"I'll never forget my most favorite Bob Knight memory. He had a real good team, we had a real good team and it was getting late in the year. We beat them down there pretty handily and it was a big game, CBS, the whole works. We were celebrating in the locker room, and Quinn Buckner's son knocked on the door. He was a manager for Bob, and he said 'Coach Knight would like to to see you in the war room' and I said 'Oh, jeez, here we go.'

"I went down there and he told me he thought we had a good enough team to win it. He told me four or five things to watch out for, and then he slapped me on the back side and said 'get out of here.' Sure enough, we went on to win it that (next) year (in 2000).

Knight has many critics, but Izzo certainly isn't one of them. 

"Everyone has different thoughts and stories on Bob Knight, but for me he was a guy that was passionate about what he did,'' Izzo said. "And 99 percent of his players loved him, and still go back and still talk about him. 

"My first Big Ten win was against Bob (on Jan. 4, 1996). People told me, you win some games and he won't be the same. He was always the same. I think he respected that we didn't cheat and that we did it the right way. He respected that I was just a grinder like he probably was. I have great admiration for Bob.''

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Izzo, who will turn 67 years old on Sunday, won a national title in 2000 and has been to eight Final Fours. Knight won three titles, and made five Final Four appearances. Knight won 11 titles, Izzo 10, though Izzo has won six Big Ten tournaments. Knight didn't win any. Knight's record at Indiana was 659-242. Izzo enters Tuesday night's game at 658-257.

Izzo's Spartans are 19-9 this season. He desperately wants to win that second national title before he retires. And he has no interest in a long, drawn-out farewell tour.

"It's interesting, because you get asked those questions (about retirement) and I say 'Hell, (Duke coach Mike) Krzyzewski has got eight, nine years on me, so I've got plenty of time,'' Izzo said last year. "The day that I don't feel like taking red eyes from Vegas to Orlando, or the day I don't enjoy what I do, that's it.

"I mean, I love my job. I'm a little leery of where our profession is going right now, but I do love my job, I've really got a good group – academically, athletically, and basketball-wise. So we're going to see. I'm excited to still try to get that elusive second championship. That's what the goal is."

Knight won other games at Army and Texas Tech, so these totals are only for coaches while they were at Big Ten schools. Knight finished with 902 wins, fifth all-time. He was first when he retired from Texas Tech in 2008, but he's since been passed by Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams.

Izzo's 658 wins are 41st all-time nationally.

Here is the list of all-time wins by Big Ten coaches, with current coaches in bold:

  1. Bob Knight, Indiana (1971-2000) ............................ 662
  2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State (1996-present) ........... 662
  3. Gene Keady, Purdue (1981-2005) ........................... 512
  4. Lou Henson, Illinois (1976-1996) ............................ 421
  5. Matt Painter, Purdue (2006-present) ................... 379
  6. Piggy Lambert, Purdue (1917-1946) ........................ 371
  7. Branch McCracken, Indiana (1935-1965) ............... 364
  8. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin (2002-2106) ............................. 364
  9. Thad Matta, Ohio State (2005-2017) ....................... 337
  10. Jud Heathcote, Michigan State (1977-1995) .......... 336
  11. Harry Combes, Illinois (1948-1967) .......................... 316
  12. Fred Taylor, Ohio State (1959-1976) ......................... 297
  13. John Beilein, Michigan (2008-2019) ........................ 278 
  14. Harold Olsen, Ohio St./Northwestern (1923-52) ....274
  15. Tom Davis, Iowa (1987-1999) .................................... 269
  16. Bud Foster, Wisconsin (1935-1959) .........................  265
  17. Louis Cook, Minnesota (1899-1924) ........................ 246
  18. Doc Meanwell, Wisconsin (1912-1934) .................... 246
  19. Clem Haskins, Minnesota (1987-1999) .................... 239
  20. Dutch Lonbord, Northwestern (1928-1950) ........... 236
  21. Fran McCaffery, Iowa (2011-present) .................... 235
  22. Bruce Weber, Illinois (2004-2012) ............................. 210
  23. Johnny Orr, Michigan (1969-1980) ........................... 209
  24. Dave McMillen, Minnesota (1928-1948) ................... 196
  25. Bill Carmody, Northwestern (2001-2013) ................ 192

Here is the complete list of Big Ten wins by all 196 coaches in history. (Note, their total for Knight is inaccurate. Knight has 662, which was confirmed by the Big Ten and NCAA on Tuesday. CLICK HERE