After nine years of serving as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Dwayne Stephens has been announced as the associate head coach for the Spartan men’s basketball program. After returning to his alma mater in the 2003-04 season, Michigan State has won three Big Ten Championships, a Big Ten Tournament title, and has appeared in three Final Fours.
“Dwayne Stephens has certainly earned this promotion,” Izzo said. “Over the last nine years, he’s continued to improve as a coach and expanded his responsibilities, while patiently waiting his turn. His efforts have played a major role in our success over the last decade, as he’s worked to develop many of our big men, and continued to establish our identity as a team committed to rebounding. In addition, he’s played a major role in our ever-improving recruiting, and has developed a greater understanding of all the different facets of being a head coach. He’s helped us reach Final Fours and win championships. Of course, his championship experience dates back to him making the game-winning shot against Purdue to win the 1990 Big Ten Championship in the first year of Breslin.”
That game-winning basket came during Stephens’ freshman season, when Izzo was an assistant to Jud Heathcote. The relationship between the two have been there for over 20 years, and will continue to grow throughout the rest of their coaching tenures.
“I want to thank Coach Izzo for this great opportunity to take the next step in my coaching career,” Stephens said. “I’ve watched closely as other assistants have grown in this position, and I’m committed to doing the same. The fact that this opportunity comes at my alma mater only serves to make it more special. As a staff and team, we’ve experienced tremendous success over the last nine years. Working alongside Coach Izzo, as well as Coach Garland and Coach Fife, I’m excited about the future in store for this great program.”
Stephens is in charge of coaching the Spartan post players, as well as handling scouting and recruiting. He has helped produced tremendous big men, including Draymond Green, Paul Davis, and Goran Suton, and has seen his teams lead the nation in rebounding in 2009 and 2010 as well leading the Big Ten in six of the last nine years.
“When a decorated player like Draymond Green credits much of his development to Coach Stephens, that’s the ultimate compliment a coach can receive,” Izzo said. “The list of players that he’s helped develop is quite impressive and spans back to his time at Marquette where he helped mentor Dwayne Wade. There is no doubt in my mind that he has positioned himself to be the next MSU assistant coach to run his own program.”
Over the past few years, Stephens has been recognized as one of the top assistants and recruiters in the nation. In 2010, according to FoxSports.com, Stephens was ranked in the top five on a list of the “Top 25 High-Major Assistants.” In 2012, Bleacher Report pegged Stephens as one of the 10 best assistant coaches and 10 best recruiters in the country.
As he begins his new role at Michigan State, the thought comes to mind of when Stephens will leave East Lansing and take charge of his own program. After all, Tom Crean, Brain Gregory, Doug Wojcik, Jim Boylen, and Mark Montgomery have all been associate head coaches under Izzo and went on to lead their own Division I program. The most recent one, Mark Montgomery, spent six years as an assistant and then four as the associate head coach before taking the head coaching job at Northern Illinois.
As Stephens continues to progress under Izzo, he may one day become a head coach for another program as well.
Also, Spartan fans have to wonder who will take over the reigns when Izzo finally retires. It will likely be someone that has been through the ropes at Michigan State.