I said when Mark Montgomery left the Michigan State basketball team that I was excited to see who Tom Izzo would hire as a replacement assistant coach, because it would offer an indication of what direction the program is heading. With the announced hiring of Dane Fife, I think MSU fans should be excited about it.
Izzo has had great respect for Dane Fife since Fife’s playing days at Clarkston High School, where he was a McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Basketball in 1998. Fife was a huge target for MSU and, along with guys like Shane Battier and Chris Webber (both easy Mr. Basketball picks who went on to great careers) is a player Izzo still mentions as one that got away.
Now, Fife will finally be on the Michigan State sideline.
I also gained tremendous respect for Fife following him at IPFW (the Mastodons and Spartans have played each other on and off since Fife took over there in 2005), where he led the Mastodons to winning records in each of the last two seasons (they were 2-20 as recently as the 2001-02 season). I think he could have a great deal to offer in terms of recruiting in Indiana and he brings the precise mentality that Michigan State was built upon (and, at times, was lacking this year).
Fife was recruited by and played for two years under Bob Knight (before two more years under Mike Davis) and was known for his defense and toughness — again, staples of the MSU program that were absent at times this season. Growing up watching Michigan State basketball, Fife was one of those Big Ten guys I’ll never forget for always being a thorn in the Spartans’ side. He was a pesky player who played hard and got after it. He drove you nuts, but you had to respect him for it.
Another thing — he’s also a former quarterback, something Izzo loves. He first fell in love with Mateen Cleaves watching him at summer 7-on-7s.
MSU fans are more than happy to forget about last season’s woes and look ahead. This is one more reason to do so.
Also, I should mention that both FOXSports.com’s Jeff Goodman and the Indy Star’s Jeff Rabjohns were both on this story today. But I don’t think anyone broke it before Spartan Mag’s Jim Comparoni last night. Kudos.