Congratulatory message 20 years ago led to Hawkins-Izzo friendship

Kelly Hawkins, left, and Steve Hawkins, right, share a laugh with Michigan State Coach Tom...
Kelly Hawkins, left, and Steve Hawkins, right, share a laugh with Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, center, when Hawkins was coach at Western Michigan.(Steve Hawkins)
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 11:40 AM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Steve Hawkins bounced into the basketball office at Western Michigan University with a little extra pep in his step.

And why not?

Less than 24 hours later on a cold November night in 2003, Hawkins made his debut as Broncos head coach after three years as an assistant and watched his team dismantle a talented University of Southern California squad 83-65 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I walked into my office and on my desk was one of those ‘While You Were Out’ message notes,” recalled Hawkins, who is entering the second year of his second tenure at Quincy University.

“There really wasn’t texting back then and the message said ‘Please call (Michigan State) Coach (Tom) Izzo’ and had his number. I called and he congratulated me on my first victory as head coach at WMU. What started as a brief phone call ended up lasting about an hour and we covered a lot of ground.

“We eventually talked about each other’s programs, then attended each other’s practices and developed a solid relationship that is still strong 20 years later.”

In fact, it’s so strong that nearly 20 years later the legendary Spartans coach will be the keynote speaker for the Quincy University Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Banquet at 6 p.m., Sunday at Pepsi Arena.

“It’s not often you get a Hall of Fame coach to take time out of their schedule right before the season begins, but Coach Izzo isn’t your average coach,” Hawkins said.

“He’s a special person and a good friend. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear him speak on a variety of topics. This is going to be a special night in Quincy.”

Hawkins said the format will be a question-and-answer type of discussion where Hawkins will throw out topics of interest such as the transfer portal, name image likeness (NIL) and conference realignment among others giving Izzo a chance to respond.

“That should be very interesting to our fans to hear Coach Izzo’s response to some of the things happening in today’s world of college athletics,” Hawkins said.

“I’m very excited to help out my longtime friend, Coach Hawk,” said Izzo. “I’m excited to meet and speak with the good people of Quincy. It will be a fun evening.”

Getting ready for his 29th season at MSU, Izzo has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments.

Izzo has won 71% of the games he coached, fashioning a career record of 687–280. He’s 55-23 in NCAA Tournament games and 2-2 in NIT.

The veteran Spartans coach, who won the 2000 NCAA National Championship, has also captured 10 regular-season Big Ten Championships, six Big Ten Tournament titles, eight Final Four appearances, eight National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-record 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Hawkins said the 2023-24 QU team and coaching staff will be introduced and he will discuss the prospects for the upcoming season. The Hawks finished 14-15 under Hawkins in his first season back at QU but qualified for the GLVC Tournament ending a six-year absence.

There will be an opportunity for QU fans to buy season tickets as well as memberships to the Sixth Man Booster Club.

“This should be a really memorable evening for Quincy University and Hawks basketball fans,” Hawkins said.

Just a few tables of eight remain for $750. And there are about 40 spots remaining for either individual tickets at $125 or couples at $200, which include a buffet dinner.

There is also a meet and greet with photo opportunity for $50 per person. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought at

For more information, call QU men’s basketball assistant coach and JV head coach Troy Potts at (217) 440-0019.

The event is sponsored by Refreshment Services Pepsi, Rinella Company, Quincy Recycling and Gardner Denver.

Ton Izzo at a glance

  • NCAA National Championships: 1 (2000)
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 25 (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: 15 (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2023)
  • NCAA Tournament Final Four: 8 (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2019)
  • NIT Appearances: 2 (1996, 1997)
  • Big Ten Regular Season Champion: 10 (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2018, 2019, 2020)
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion: 6 (1999, 2000, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019)
  • AP Coach of the Year: 1 (1998)
  • NABC Coach of the Year: 2 (2001, 2012)
  • Henry Iba Award: 1 (1998)
  • Clair Bee Coach of the Year: 1 (2005)
  • Big Ten Coach of the Year: 3 (1998, 2009, 2012)
  • John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award (2011)
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted in 2016)

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