Izzo Watch: MSU coach undecided on NBA job
CLEVELAND – One of college basketball’s brightest minds, Tom Izzo is wrestling with a career- and life-changing decision.
Michigan State or the Cavaliers? On Campus or in Cleveland?
Big Ten or Big Bucks? LeBron or LeGone?
Izzo still doesn’t know.
One day after he and his family visited Cleveland to get a taste of the NBA, Izzo remained undecided about his next move. He sent a text message Friday to The Associated Press, saying he had not made a decision. Izzo later told the Spartans the same thing and didn’t give them a timetable for the decision when they came to the basketball offices to get their Big Ten championship rings sized, according to a person who was there in East Lansing, Mich. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the meeting was supposed to remain confidential.
Izzo is believed to have been offered a five-year, $30 million contract by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State alum who may be looking to make a big splash with his coaching hire to convince soon-to-be free agent LeBron James to re-sign with Cleveland.
At the same time, Izzo has to be concerned about coaching a team without James, who is expected to listen to offers from several teams when free agency opens July 1.
With James, the Cleveland job is one of the league’s best.
Without the two-time MVP, the Cavs could be in for some serious rebuilding.
Izzo’s courtship with the Cavs has lasted more than one week but seems to be nearing a resolution. It’s not known if the Cavs have given Izzo a deadline or if he has told them when to expect an answer.
Messages were left Friday with Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant, both of whom have declined to elaborate about their pursuit of Izzo, who has rejected offers from pro teams before but seems to be having a tough time turning down this one.
As the Cavaliers wait, the team is continuing its coaching search by doing research and evaluating other candidates. At the top of the team’s “B” list is former New Orleans and New Jersey coach Byron Scott, now working as a TV analyst during the NBA finals.
Scott spent more than one hour on the phone with Grant and assistant GM Lance Blanks on Thursday, Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney told AOL Fanhouse.com. McInerney has not returned several messages left by the AP.
The Cavs’ interest in Scott is like all things, tied to James. Scott won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers as Magic Johnson’s backcourt mate. Scott also has coached star players such as Jason Kidd and Chris Paul, giving him the necessary background to handle James.
Scott led the Nets to two finals appearances in four seasons, and guided the Hornets to the Western Conference semifinals in 2008.
The team also has inquired about Milwaukee assistant Kelvin Sampson.
Michigan State has been bracing for Izzo’s possible exit for a decade, dating to an offer from Atlanta after he led the school to its second national championship. Each offseason his name emerges as a candidate for openings in the NBA and college ranks.
If Izzo leaves, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said earlier in the week he has a long list of candidates he would consider.
Dayton’s Brian Gregory, Tulsa’s Doug Wojcik, Utah’s Jim Boylen – all assistants under Izzo – likely would be on the list along with associate head coach Mark Montgomery and Dwayne Stephens. Both played for the Spartans when Izzo was a relatively unknown assistant for Jud Heathcote.
Izzo has been at Michigan State since 1983 and has been the Spartans’ coach since 1995, leading them to six Final Fours in the past 12 years.