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Michigan State Spartans hire Thomas Kelley as assistant coach

The Izzo alumnus joins the Spartans after four seasons on staff at Western Michigan

NCAA Basketball: Western Michigan at Michigan State
Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo reacts during the second half of a game against the Western Michigan Broncos at the Breslin Center Dec. 29, 2019
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans finally announced a long awaited result for who would be the new assistant coach hire to replace longtime assistant Dwayne Stephens. In the end, it was a swap with the Western Michigan Broncos as Stephens was hired as the program’s new head coach and Broncos assistant coach Thomas Kelley has now joined the Spartans staff.

Kelley spent the past four seasons on the staff at WMU as an assistant coach under head coaches Steve Hawkins and Clayton Bates. Newly hired Stephens had announced he would be retaining Kelley on staff for a fifth season, but instead he will be departing to East Lansing.

During Kelley’s tenure at Western as an assistant, six Broncos earned All-MAC (Mid-American Conference) recognition, and 13 players earned Academic All-MAC selections.

Kelley is familiar with East Lansing in more than one way, however. He was on staff under Izzo as a graduate manager for two seasons from 2016-2018 before departing for an assistant role at Western Michigan in the fall of 2018. He also played for MSU from 1995 through 1999 seeing action in 15 career games, averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 assists, and 0.6 steals per game. In his fifth-year with the program as a senior, he was also a member of Izzo’s first Final Four team during the 1998-1999 season.

Izzo offered the following remarks on the hire:

“It’s always been a thrill for me when I can bring a former player back to Michigan State and that’s definitely the case with Thomas coming back as an assistant on my staff. I’ve known Thomas for nearly 30 years, from recruiting him, coaching him and then having him on my staff when he started his career.

He was a player on my first Final Four team here and when he came back as a graduate assistant in 2015, you could tell from the jump that he was going to be a great coach, from his work on film, his work on the floor with the team and his ability to communicate with the players. I always thought he’d be a terrific coach and he was able to grow and learn more during his time at Western Michigan. It’s great to have him back with his Spartan family.”

After his college career as a player, Kelley, a Grand Rapids, Michigan native, went on to play 15 seasons as a professional player in Amsterdam, Israel, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, and Finland. He joins Doug Wojcik and Mark Montgomery as Izzo’s three full-time assistant coaches.