Despite his success, fame and fortune, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is still an approachable guy. His cell phone vibrates constantly, and his windowed office on campus gives friends and strangers a chance to knock on the glass and give him a big thumbs-up.
There have been a lot of those lately.
The 55-year-old coach has led his men's basketball team to the Final Four for the sixth time in 12 seasons, a feat also accomplished by just UCLA's John Wooden and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
If Izzo cuts down the nets Monday night in Indianapolis -- a decade after he won a national title there -- his .770 winning percentage in the NCAA tournament would rank No. 1 among active coaches.
To prepare for Saturday's semifinal against Butler, Izzo even escaped his Michigan State offices one day this week to get some work done, driving one-half mile to the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center to work on a game plan.
Izzo agreed to give the Associated Press exclusive, behind-the-scenes access for the first two days of his Final Four preparations.
-- -- --
Izzo's conference room:
The room connected to Izzo's office suite has a treadmill in the corner, plaques on the wall recognizing past head coaches, assistant coaches and those from Izzo's coaching tree who have gone on to lead programs such as Indiana's Tom Crean and Dayton's Brian Gregory.
Izzo sits on right side of the long, oval table.
His right hand rests on a computer mouse connected to a state-of-the-art video system -- that is when he isn't reaching into a 35-ounce barrel of Utz Cheese Balls.
Assistant coaches Mark Montgomery, Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland step in the room along with video coordinator Jordan Ott, joining Izzo and assistant video coordinator Doug Herner.