All the buzz around Cleveland coaching changes has thrust Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo into the spotlight. And for good reason. The Spartan leader recently completed his 15th season in East Lansing and has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments, including the 2000 NCAA National Championship, six regular season Big Ten Championships, two Big Ten Tournament titles, six Final Four appearances, four National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-best 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Still, his recognition as one of the nation’s top college coaches has not convinced many analysts that Izzo can make it in the NBA. The style of play is much different; the players’ egos are much bigger (for the most part); and there are a lot more games with a lot higher stakes. Louisville’s Rick Pitino attempted the move to the pros and failed. And Kentucky’s John Calipari failed in his first go around.
The difference is neither Pitino nor Calipari came into the league with an owner, such as Dan Gilbert, who allowed them to build their franchise without fear of being cut loose after one disappointing season. Neither coach was allowed the opportunity to coach one of the greatest superstars to play the game of basketball in LeBron James.
Tom Izzo has built an incredible program at Michigan State but, according to the school, it is his “insatiable desire to accomplish more” that makes him one of the best in the game. That desire is what will make Izzo a successful coach should he decide to pack his bags for Cavalier nation.
What does that mean for the Cavaliers?
Tom Izzo has a great job in Michigan. And it’s a job where winning has become a tradition. There is no way that he would make the move to Cleveland without some sort of commitment from the King himself. Now whether that commitment is coming second-hand from Dan Gilbert or it is coming directly from LeBron James has yet to be seen. He may be rolling the dice on Gilbert’s guarantee that he will have LeBron back in Wine & Gold next season. But there’s something – other than the $30 million – that is drawing Tom Izzo to Cleveland. Otherwise, he would not be considering the job.