How Tom Izzo, MSU Basketball Hire Saddi Washington Diverges from Historic Coaching Trend

The Michigan State Spartans and head coach Tom Izzo hired Saddi Washington, going a different route than what Izzo might have taken in the past.
Michigan assistant coach Saddi Washington watches practice during media day at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.
Michigan assistant coach Saddi Washington watches practice during media day at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hall-of-Fame Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo needed to fill an assistant coaching position ahead of his 30th season after Mark Montgomery took the helm at University of Detroit-Mercy. Izzo sought out Michigan assistant Saddi Washington to fill the role.

The hire diverges from over a decade of Izzo's tendency to hire someone who had previously played or worked for him. The move away from the Izzo tree is a breath of fresh air, but it there are still Spartan connections.

"A lot of times I stay within the immediate family," Izzo said at a Detroit Economic Club panel. "And sometimes I think it's time to branch out a little bit. [Washington] was a happy medium for me."

Washington's father was Spartan great Stan Washington, who played in the 1960s and earn All-Big Ten honors three times. He averaged 18.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during his career with the Green and White.

Before coaching, Washington was a star for Lansing Sexton High School. At Sexton, Washington played well and earned attention from the college level, ultimately choosing to play at Western Michigan.

During his freshman year in Kalamazoo, Washington earned Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team honors after averaging 14 points per game. He battled injuries as a sophomore, but earned second-team All-MAC honors as a junior.

Washington ended his Bronco career strong. As a senior, Washington averaged 21 points per game and earned first-team All-MAC recognition. Washington helped lead the Broncos to a 21-8 record and the No. 11 seed in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

As a coach, Washington was most notably the assistant for at Michigan for eight years, though Izzo also cited he was fond of Washington's work at Oakland University.

In Ann Arbor, Washington helped develop talent that is now in the NBA -- Moritz and Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers, and DJ Wilson. Washington was on the staff that led Michigan to the 2018 Men's Division I national championship, thought they ultimately fell short against Villanova. In 2021, 247Sports named him National Recruiter of the Year.

"I'm really excited," Izzo said. "I've known Saddi since he was probably in seventh, eighth grade. He played for a guy, Doug Herner, who's near and dear to my heart. I've watched Saddi as a player, I've watched him at Western, he worked my camp, his dad was a great player at our place ... I really feel like I got someone from home. Everybody makes a deal that he was at Oakland, at Michigan ... he's part-homegrown ... I think he's gonna fit in smoothly."

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Michael France