Published June 16, 2010
Tom Izzo was far too smart to screw this up.
I started to question whether the Michigan State head man was, in fact, as savvy as I had given him credit for over the years as he waited and debated for nearly two weeks.
For a while there, even some of Izzo's closest friends believed he was ready to finally bolt for the NBA.
But then the 55-year-old practically Michigan State lifer realized there was no way he could roll the dice and take the Cleveland Cavs gig.
Not when he couldn't even get The King on the phone.
I understand that LeBron James doesn't want to meddle in the Cavs' search for Mike Brown's replacement, but there's a monumental difference between trying to hand-pick a successor and speaking to a prospective coach -- one who is clearly atop owner Dan Gilbert's wish list.
No established coach with any semblance of a quality job -- as Izzo has in East Lansing -- would take a chance without talking to James.
Sources have told FOXSports.com that even Byron Scott, who isn't coaching right now, is reluctant to jump at it if the Cavs do, in fact, come his way next.
Gilbert and the Cavs management tried like hell to make Izzo feel comfortable with the situation. They even threw out a crazy number of nearly $6 million per season to sweeten the deal.
Izzo, according to sources, thought long and hard about this one due to his relationship and comfort level with Gilbert, a Michigan State grad, and the thought of coaching a team that could potentially win an NBA title.
But what ultimately held Izzo back is that he had no close ties with James.
If this had been Kentucky coach John Calipari with the Cavs offer, he would have orchestrated a lengthy conversation or even a sit-down with James via a third-party named William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley.
Calipari may not have received a clear-cut answer on what James' intentions are when he becomes a free agent on July 1, but at least he would have been able to get in front of 'Bron and get a feel.
Izzo had no shot.
Izzo -- unlike many college coaches -- barely deals with Wesley, a guy who is known by many as a secretive, yet incredibly powerful man in college basketball circles.
You'd think the pair would have a warm and fuzzy relationship since Wesley resides just down the road in Detroit.
But that wasn't the case.
This may have been Izzo's last shot at the NBA and he knew it. He turns 56 in January, and while he has a team coming back that could give him a seventh Final Four appearance in a 13-year span, he understands that jobs like this don't come along often -- especially for college coaches.
Normally, they get the ones reserved for the garbage teams -- like the ones that Tim Floyd inherited in Chicago, Mike Montgomery got in Golden State and Reggie Theus took over in Sacramento.
This one was different.
Well, it could have been different.
But it was like playing Russian Roulette.
If James doesn't re-sign with Cleveland, then Izzo would have taken over a team with bottom-five talent in the league. Sure, Gilbert told Izzo that even if The King leaves the state for the first time in his life, he'll go after other big-name guys.
But let's be honest.
Not if LeBron isn't there.
Now Izzo will stay at Michigan State, where he has been at the helm for the past 15 years, and likely finish out his Hall of Fame career. He has maintained he wanted to win a second national title to go with the one he claimed in 2000 -- and he'll have that chance.
"I'm pleased to say I am here for life at Michigan State," Izzo said in a statement after telling his team.
The only disappointing part in all this is that Izzo could have crushed the stereotype that exists about college coaches being unable to succeed in the NBA. The one that has many NBA types holding the belief it's nearly two different games because of the mammoth egos at the pro level.
The truth is that college guys, as Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said boldly last week, just don't get the quality jobs.
There was a chance Izzo could have had one of the few, but it would have been a month or so before he would have known for certain.
But no matter how long it dragged on, one thing was for sure: LeBron wasn't calling.