Nick Saban, Steven Izzo and Tom Izzo.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images (left), Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (center), Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (right)

Tom Izzo Found His Adopted Son, Steven, Through an Unlikely Friend: Nick Saban.

Steven Izzo is the adopted son of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, and he plays for his dad. Nick Saban helped Tom adopt Steven years ago.

Steven Izzo has only played 51 minutes across his five seasons with the Michigan State Spartans. The son of the legendary head coach of the team, Tom Izzo, hadn't even scored a single point through his first four seasons as an unglamorous walk-on.

That changed Jan. 14 against Rutgers, when the 5-foot-8 guard scored the only points of his career on an and-one bucket that made his teammates and the crowd in the Breslin Center erupt with joy. Even Tom had to acknowledge the moment afterward.

"When I saw the way the players responded, I thought, 'this is cool. This is why you coach,'" the 69-year-old national-championship winning coach told CBS.

The two recently shared an emotional moment together as the Spartans defeated Northwestern Wednesday on Senior Night. Though Steven didn't play, he was extremely touched about his time at MSU.

"I'm just so thankful he allowed me to walk on 5 years ago. It's been the greatest decision that I've ever made."


The story of Tom Izzo's son is a wonderful one, one that involves the greatest college football coach of all time.

Steven is the adopted son of Tom and wife Lupe Izzo. While Steven rarely sees action on the court, the 5-foot-8 graduate student — who walked on to the team in 2019 — has a special life story that involves another legendary coach: Nick Saban.

Saban and Tom Izzo have a friendship that dates back to the 1980s. The two were both assistant coaches for the basketball and football programs at Michigan State from 1983-87, and they both took over as head coach of their respective programs at MSU in 1995 (Saban, of course, left for LSU in 2000). They've remained friends ever since, and the Saban family remains massive fans of Izzo's Spartans. Izzo even attended Saban's daughter's wedding in 2015.

Their bond is so close that Saban helped Tom and Lupe find their Steven when the two were looking to adopt.

How Nick Saban Helped the Izzos Adopt Son Steven

Tom Izzo and Nick Saban talk.

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Michigan State was coming off its national championship in 2000 under Izzo. Tom and Lupe, who at the time had a 5-year-old daughter named Raquel, were looking to adopt a second child.

A couple months after celebrating that title, Izzo picked up the phone to call then-Michigan Gov. John Engler looking for help with the couple's adoption efforts. While he was on the phone with Engler, Izzo's secretary entered his office to tell him Nick Saban was on the line.

"He calls my wife," Tom Izzo said in an interview with journalist Graham Bensinger.

Saban then told Lupe about a boy who was born in West Virginia, where Saban is from. He had found out through a doctor he knew whom he called an "angel of God when it comes to placing children and helping people."

"We went down there. I'm not kidding you, when I first saw Steven he put his arms out to me. He was 4 days old," Lupe told Bensinger. "There was just no way we were gonna be separated after that."

Tom added: "In the end it was all worth it."

The Izzos named their son Steven Mateen Izzo. The middle name was after, you guessed it, Mateen Cleaves, the player who helped Michigan State win that national championship.

Steven Izzo hugs his dad after scoring a basket.

Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Amazing stuff. Twenty-something years later, Steven Izzo is playing on his father's team while a recently retired Saban can root from home.

Saban may often be portrayed as a mean, unhappy man, but he's never not helped those he cares about. If Alabama falls in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, Crimson Tide fans certainly will have another team to root for in Michigan State.

MORE: How Nick Saban Spent His First Big Bonus Check is Inspirational