Published June 07, 2010
It's almost a rite of passage this time of year.
NBA team contacts Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Izzo's response: "Thanks, but no thanks."
The latest inquiry -- it's not an offer, according to FOXSports.com sources -- has come from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs are looking for someone to replace Mike Brown and keep LeBron James with the franchise. New general manager Chris Grant has Izzo on a short list. Smart move by Grant, since he's basically on a short-term job audition for team owner Dan Gilbert, who just happens to be a Michigan State alum.
I've said it over and over. There's no one I'd pick to run my college basketball program over the Michigan State head coach. It's obvious he can coach. Just check out the half-dozen Final Four appearances in the last 12 years. He knows how to deal with people. Just ask any of his former players, the media or just about anyone.
But Izzo should remain in college.
College basketball needs Izzo, especially these days. With all of the scandals and the perception that just about everyone in big-time college hoops is dirty, Izzo's presence is necessary.
Just about everyone who reaches the pinnacle is called a cheater behind their back by their peers. I can honestly say I have never heard an opposing head coach, assistant or even an AAU type make that claim about Izzo.
Izzo is more suited to college basketball, anyway. This is a guy that runs an inordinate amount of sets and sleeps, eats and breathes basketball. He can be a micro-manager, and that just doesn't work well in the NBA, where the reserves can make more than the coach and the players run the show.
Izzo has had his chances. He's fielded interest from the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks among others in recent years. But this NBA opening is different from those that he has spurned in the past.
Sure, he's got a team coming back to East Lansing that's capable of cutting down the nets this coming April. Raymar Morgan is gone and Chris Allen's career with the Spartans may be cut short, but Michigan State is a national contender. Remember, they got to the Final Four last year even after losing star point guard Kalin Lucas to a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Lucas should be near -- if not at -- 100 percent by the start of the season, Durrell Summers has a new work ethic, Delvon Roe could be healthier than he's been since he arrived in college, and Draymond Green has assumed the much-needed leadership role.
Add in a talented freshman class led by Keith Appling and Adreian Payne and Izzo has a shot not only to make it seven out of 13, but to hang another banner at the Breslin Center.
Then again, this NBA gig isn't like most of the ones that college guys wind up landing. Most of them are reserved for bad jobs like the one Mike Montgomery took in Golden State a few years back or the one Reggie Theus got in Sacramento.
This one potentially comes with a string attached named LeBron.
No one is quite sure whether The King will remain in Cleveland and that won't be official until the start of next month at the earliest. But if Izzo had a chance to coach LeBron James, he'd have to consider making the move.
However, it would be like playing Russian roulette for Izzo if he were to take the gig right now. If LeBron stays with the Cavs, it's one of the elite jobs in the NBA. If he leaves, Izzo will become the latest college basketball coach to fail in the pros. Because no matter how great a coach he is, it doesn't matter. You can't win without players in the NBA.
And the LeBron-less Cavs don't have players.