John Calipari. Phil Jackson. Jeff Van Gundy. And Mike Krzyzewski. All guys that have previously been linked to the coaching vacancy in Cleveland, Ohio.
However, Marc Stein of ESPN.com is now reporting the following:
Tom Izzo insisted recently that he has no interest in coaching in the NBA until he wins at least one more NCAA title at Michigan State.
But that stance might not stop the Cleveland Cavaliers from trying to hire Izzo as their next coach.
The News-Herald in Northern Ohio reported on its website Sunday night that the Cavaliers — fresh off dismissing coach Mike Brown and parting ways with general manager Danny Ferry — have formally extended an offer to Izzo to replace Brown.
The Cavaliers did not confirm or deny the report, declining comment Sunday night.
This is hardly the first time Izzo has been linked to the Cleveland job. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is a Michigan State graduate and a longtime Izzo admirer who, according to NBA coaching sources, also investigated the feasibility of hiring Izzo in the summer of 2005, when the Cavs also flirted with Larry Brown before hiring Mike Brown.
Yet it figures to take more than a shared allegiance to a university or even Gilbert’s reputation as one of the NBA’s biggest spenders to tempt Izzo, given that the Cavaliers have no assurances that they can re-sign LeBron James this summer.
Izzo tried to quell the inevitable speculation about joining the Cavs in a recent interview with ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, saying: “I don’t have an interest [in the NBA] until I win another championship.”
He did appear to offer some hope of a future jump to the pros when he told Katz that “I’ll never say never.” Yet Izzo quickly added: “My name always comes up [for NBA jobs], but that doesn’t mean they’ve talked to you.”
Speaking specifically about the Cavaliers’ interest in 2005, Izzo insisted: “There was so much made that Dan Gilbert is from Michigan, but that was more manufactured because I didn’t meet with them.”
Attempts to reach Izzo on Sunday night were unsuccessful.
ESPN.com reported last week that Gilbert has not abandoned hope of hiring a big-name coach despite the fact that Jeff Van Gundy has informed interested teams such as the New Jersey Nets and Cleveland that he intends to stay in television as an ESPN/ABC analyst for at least one more season before returning to coaching.
Charlotte’s Larry Brown and Kentucky coach John Calipari — who is friendly with James and sat near Cleveland’s bench during its Game 5 home loss to Boston in the second round of the NBA playoffs — are two more marquee names that have been mentioned as potential Cavs candidates. ESPN’s Byron Scott and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, meanwhile, are already under consideration in Cleveland, sources say.
Izzo hasn’t seriously considered a move to the NBA since the summer of 2000, when the Atlanta Hawks pursued him hard after Michigan State won its only title in the Izzo era. The Spartans, though, have made six trips to the Final Four in the past 12 seasons, establishing Izzo as an East Lansing legend.
Izzo is under contract at Michigan State through 2016 and earns an estimated $3 million annually. There’s little doubt Gilbert could double that salary, but the Cavs will remain a franchise in flux until they have a commitment from James that he’s re-signing. Interest in Izzo could thus prove to be futile, similar to Cleveland’s reported hopes of pursuing Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson or Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
Gilbert said last week after Ferry’s departure that he hopes to have a new coach in place by the start of free agency July 1, but he also acknowledged that filling the job so quickly might not be possible.