Tom Izzo: College or Pro?
It sucks to be in his situation.
by Eric Woodyard / @eric32woodyard
When the news broke that the Cavs are considering Tom Izzo for their coaching vacancy, most people brushed it off. This was nothing unheard of with teams like Atlanta, Toronto, Detroit and Chicago all pursuing the little “big” man in the past decade.
With a stacked roster returning to East Lansing next season, why would Izzo leave all of this behind? Two words: LeBron James. Few coaches are blessed with the privilege to coach one of the greatest talents in NBA history in his prime, let alone move straight up from the college ranks.
“I’m a little nervous about this one. The other ones I wasn’t worried about but this one scares me a little bit,” Former MSU Spartan Mateen Cleaves told ABC12 News. “To have an opportunity to coach a LeBron James…that’s gonna be tough to turn down and then you know his heart is at Michigan State so I would hate to be him in a some sense but I would love to be him in a sense so he’s got a tough decision to make.”
Here’s the situation…
What if LeBron James doesn’t return?
If the King doesn’t return to his castle in Cleveland, Izzo’s professional move could flop quicker than a Ray J album. In the past, great college coaches haven’t had success on the pro level. It didn’t work for Rick Pitino or John Calipari, so what will give Izzo the edge? Honestly I don’t think his college antics will be able to translate on the professional level. Others feel the same.
“He would definitely have to change his strategy of how he communicates and gets his guys fired up, but that’s the type of guy he is,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown said. “He’s a passionate guy about what he does and a fiery guy.”
Izzo’s been documented for his furious antics to motivate his players. Beginning with his aggressive in-your-face, Joe Jackson-esque style and harsh language. It will be interesting to see how grown men will respond. The New York Times reported that he has strapped football shoulder pads on his players for rebounding drills and even taken them to watch Nick Saban’s football practices. They also reported that “Izzo has done his best work incorporating football tactics in to his basketball philosophy. Film sessions last no longer than 20 minutes to avoid inundating players with too much information.”
While many have questioned his techniques, he has always answered with success. His resume speaks for itself.
• Four-Time National Coach of the Year
• 1 NCAA, 6 Big Ten and 2 Big Ten Tournament championships
• 6 Final Four appearances
• 13 straight NCAA Tournaments
• 12 NBA Draft picks, including 6 first rounders
• Six All-Americans
• Graduates 84 percent of players who complete eligibility
• MSU’s all-time winningest coach
Since 2000, David Stern has given 11 of his athletes an NBA shot, including six first rounders (Mateen Cleaves — 2000 first round, Morris Peterson — 2000 first round, Jason Richardson — 2001 first round, Zach Randolph — 2001 first round, Andre Hutson — 2001 second round, Marcus Taylor — 2002 second round, Erazem Lorbek — 2005 second round, Shannon Brown — 2006 first round, Maurice Ager — 2006 first round, Paul Davis — 2006 second round, Goran Suton — 2009 second round). With the talent continuing to commit to MSU, if Izzo stays this number will only increase. Outside of the reported $6 million a season offer from the Cavs, Izzo has every reason to stay.
If Izzo returns to East Lansing he will have two integral pieces back on the roster: Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. He will also have Detroit Pershing’s Mr. Basketball, Keith Appling to add a bit of flair to his already feisty team. Loyalty should play some factor in to his decision.
More than 400 fans rallied outside of the Breslin Center by the Magic Johnson statue last night as Izzo met with the Cavs to discuss his upcoming coaching decision. Fans created several signs, including ones that read, “Oh no … please don’t go Izzo,” “Say it ain’t so, Izzo” and “LeBron wishes he was a Spartan.” Without Izzo at MSU, college basketball will lose an icon. There’s no “Izzone.” Instead, Izzo will be in an unfamiliar zone. He will be faced with the pressures of leading a hungry franchise to a zone that ‘he’ nor ‘they’ have ever reached, an NBA championship.
It sounds a bit selfish, but I hope Tom Izzo returns to the Spartans next year and brings home another National Championship.