Sunday, June 6, 2010
Updated: June 8, 3:12 PM ET
Izzo linked to Cleveland job
ESPN.com news services
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 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, sources confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard on Monday.
The Cavaliers did not confirm or deny the report, declining comment Sunday night. The News-Herald in northern Ohio first reported the Cavs' offer to Izzo.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reiterated in an e-mail to The Associated Press the team's policy is to not comment on "any rumor about potential new hires, trades, free agent signing, etc."
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis denied to the AP that the Cavs have offered Izzo a contract but confirmed the team is interested in the Spartans' coach.
"There is not a contract offer on the table," Hollis said in a telephone interview with the AP. "Last week, there was talk that Chicago and New Jersey were interested. If I was anywhere but at Michigan State, I would be interested in Tom, too, because he's the best coach in college basketball."
A source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that Izzo told Michigan State that he hasn't been offered a contract and a lot of the reports have been blown out of proportion.
However, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Monday that Gilbert discussed the framework of a deal, worth about $6 million a season for up to five years, with perks such as using one of his private jets.
Izzo has chosen not to confirm or deny the reports.
"I've taken the no-comment-on-all-of-it policy, which is a little bit unlike Tom Izzo," he said Monday night in an interview with WILS radio in Lansing, Mich. "But I've been very consistent with that. And maybe to close it up, I would just say there are so many things out there that are so far-fetched right now.
"I'm the Michigan State coach and that's what I'm going to do right now. Who knows what the future brings? But it sure isn't at all like it's maybe being speculated."
Izzo didn't respond to messages from the AP by phone and text.
This is hardly the first time Izzo has been linked to the Cleveland job. 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.
Izzo is believed to be on the short list of candidates preferred by Gilbert, who didn't ask Hollis for permission to talk to Izzo.
"That's not normal protocol when you're talking about pro teams going after college coaches," Hollis said. "Dan is a great Spartan and I have a lot of respect for him with what he's done in the NBA and with his business."
Hollis said he talked to Izzo on Monday and several times over the weekend, insisting that wasn't unusual because they have been friends for more than two decades. Izzo was the best man at Hollis' wedding and the two were roommates when starting careers at Michigan State.
"I know Dan and Tom talk and that Dan has reached out to talk to Tom in the past," Hollis said. "The only other thing I can tell you at this point is there is a strong interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers in Tom Izzo."
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, 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."
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.
"I'm not worried," Hollis insisted. "But Tom has to make the decision that is best for his immediate family."
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.
Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.