Izzo staying at MSU 'for life'
MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo smiles as sophomore guard Korie Lucious hugs him and as other players say goodbye during a press conference Tuesday night at the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, where Izzo announced he will stay at MSU instead of taking an informal offer with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Tuesday night, nine days after MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo first was rumored to be the leading candidate for the coaching vacancy of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Izzo announced he will remain the Spartans’ leading man at a press conference in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center Auditorium.
Immediately after Izzo approached the podium, his players came to the front and each hugged Izzo before he could speak to crowd.
Izzo said his decision to stay will be the last of its kind for him, as he plans on being a “lifer” and staying at MSU for the rest of his career.
“I decided that this decision would put me here for life or not,” Izzo said. “I knew at the beginning, whatever decision I made, it was a decision for life.”
The 15-year head coach said he wants to do what other coaches who have spent their entire coaching lives at one school have done — build his program into a national power.
“My goal has always been to put Michigan State University in an elite spot,” Izzo said. “And I think three national championships for a school puts it in a top-10 list. That’s getting pretty elite.”
After more than a week of contemplating and examining his options on the way to a decision, Izzo said it was the closest he’s come to leaving MSU. While he never had an official offer, he said he knew the parameters of a lengthy and lucrative contract.
He also knew he had the opportunity to possibly coach one of the best players in the world, LeBron James, and said the job was something he felt he needed to consider seriously.
Izzo also said Dan Gilbert, Cavaliers owner and an MSU alumnus, was another one of the main reasons he took interest in the Cleveland job.
With so many different items to address, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said she and other school officials had no problem with giving Izzo all the time he needed to examine something so important to him and his family.
“We felt very strongly that Tom Izzo earned and deserved the opportunity to evaluate this opportunity as thoroughly as he chose to do,” Simon said. “We never interpreted that as a reflection on Michigan State University.”
MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis agreed with Simon, and said he never doubted Izzo’s passion for everything Green and White.
“Tom Izzo loves Michigan State, there’s no question about that,” Hollis said. “This past week, he faced a personal opportunity — one that he did not seek out. He owed it to himself and his family to understand, evaluate, reflect and draw a conclusion. It’s a decision that will be of their family’s life forever. We owed him that opportunity to allow that process to happen.”
Izzo expressed his appreciation for Hollis and Simon, which he referred to as his “administrative family” at MSU, and their patience as he took the time to look at every detail and make sure he was making the right choice.
“I didn’t get one negative word said to me,” Izzo said. “I didn’t get one time when they said ‘Can you speed up the process, can you do this?’”
While Izzo was in talks with Cleveland, he said he did not hide anything from the administration and that Hollis was part of every phone call he had with the Cavaliers.
In the end, Izzo said talks with friends, family and former players convinced him he belongs at MSU. And although he said he did have dreams of coaching at the NBA level, he also said he will not regret the choice to remain on the Spartans’ sideline.
“I could have gone to the NBA. That’s not the same thing as going,” Izzo said. “Thank God I work for some people that gave me the opportunity to look and when I looked, I decided what my dad said to me when I was five, six years old. ‘The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.’ And the grass is pretty green here.”