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Long-time Men's Basketball Assistant Mike Garland Announces His Retirement From Michigan State

He is a life-long friend of Tom Izzo and spent 22 seasons on the head coach's staff

Michigan State men's basketball assistant coach Mike Garland announced his retirement on Thursday after spending 22 seasons on the bench in East Lansing. 

Garland began his career with the Spartans when he was hired by Tom Izzo in 1996. He remained in East Lansing until 2003, when he was hired to be the head coach at Cleveland State. Garland also spent one season as an assistant coach at SMU during the 2006-07 season, before returning to Michigan State for the 07-08 season.

In 2021-22, Garland served as a special assistant to Izzo after 14 seasons as an assistant during his second stint in East Lansing.

"I've been blessed in my life to be provided many great opportunities," Garland wrote in a statement. "But among the best has been the opportunity to interact with the great young men who have been a part of the Michigan State men's basketball program and to do it alongside my friend and loving brother that I can't say enough about, Tom Izzo, along with other fellow coaches during my time here."

Garland was on Izzo's staff for all 10 regular season Big Ten championships (three outright, seven shared) the Spartans have won during the head coach's tenure. He was also on staff when Michigan State won the national championship in 2000, and was a part of seven of the eight trips to the Final Four the Spartans have made since 1996.

"My absences won't remove the love of Michigan State from my heart of their love for me from their hearts," Garland wrote. I'll always be a part of this program and will always carry the relationships and friendships I've made here with me."

In addition to his basketball knowledge, Garland also served as an advisor and mentor to many of Michigan State's players during his time as an assistant, which earned him the affectionate nickname of "OG".

"I've worked alongside so many great people here, but the part of the job I've always cared for most has been the opportunity to work with young men and impact their lives, each of whom I which I could mention by name."

In addition to the national championship, Final Fours and 10 regular season championships, Garland was on staff for six Big Ten Tournament championships and for 20 of Izzo's ongoing streak of 24 consecutive seasons making the field of the NCAA Tournament. His partnership with Izzo has also results in 18 NBA Draft selections for Michigan State.

"There have been a lot of successful moments on the court here and that's what Tom has built, one of the best basketball programs in the country," Garland said. "It's been an honor to be a part of those championships and Final Fours and to see so many of our players go on to play professionally. I've been just as proud to see so many of our players have success in the business world and to become fathers to wonderful families."

The relationship between Izzo and Garland goes beyond their time together in East Lansing. The pair were college teammates at Nothern Michigan from 1973-77, and have spent the majority of their coaching careers alongside one another.

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"Words can't truly express what Mike Garland means to me," Izzo wrote in a statement. "We've been friends since we met the first night in college and basically have lived the rest of our professional lives together. To say he's just my friend doesn't even scratch the surface of our relationship. He's my brother for life.

"At the same time, we all know that life moves on and this is a great time for Mike to step into a deserved retirement after a tremendous career as a leader in college basketball. The impact he has had on not only this program, but also on nearly every young man he’s met while coaching in this sport is incredible. To say that Mike Garland was just a basketball coach would be a disservice."

Garland missed time during the 2019-20 season due to his son Michael Ray's heart transplant. That time spent with family, away from the game, began preparing the long-time assistant for his eventual retirement.

“You don’t get the chance to work with a friend for so long like I have with Tom Izzo since we met at Northern Michigan in the early 1970s,” Garland wrote. “He gave me the opportunity to be a part of this program when he became the head coach in 1996 and there is nothing I regret about the decision. My wife, Cynthia, and my family have grown up here and Michigan State is a very special place and will always be part of us.

“I always thought that Chief (the Spartans’ internal nickname for Izzo) and I would share the day of our departure together. And of course I could have given him a few more years to make that dream come true, like all the others we have shared together. But after several months of thought and reflection, while sitting at the hospital bedside of my son, I decided it was best for my family, while I’m in great health, to give up the game I love to pour more of myself into my wife, my (three) children and eight grandchildren.”

While Garland's time on the bench at Michigan State has come to an end, it is clear that the impact he made with the Spartans will continue for years to come due to the influence he's had on individuals throughout the program.

“Mike, his wonderful wife Cynthia and their beautiful family, Simone, Quentin and Michael Ray, have been a big part of our Spartan Family and I thank each of them for what they have done for us," Izzo wrote. "If a friend is supposed to have your back, I always knew Mike had mine. Whether in college on the court together, driving his wife to the hospital when she delivered Michael Ray or just going for all the jogs through campus. Mike will be missed but never forgotten.

“It will be hard for me to come into the office at 7:30 every morning where Mike and I would sit in my office and just talk and not have him there. It will be hard for me to be out of the court or to look down to our bench and not hear his voice or see him there, but Mike Garland’s presence at Michigan State is going to be felt for a long, long time.”

Garland's coaching career began in 1977 at Detroit Cody High School, where he spent two seasons as an assistant. He went into private business in 1979, but returned to basketball in 1982 to coach Belleville High's junior varsity team.

Eventually, Garland became his high school alma mater’s head coach, leading the Tigers to a 153-49 record in nine seasons and earning Michigan High School Coach of the Year by the Associated Press in 1993-94, as well as the Detroit Free Press’ All-Suburban Coach of the Year in 1990-91.

During his three seasons as the head coach of Cleveland State from 2003-06, Garland had a record of 23-60 with the Vikings.

Twitter: @mlounsberry_SI