MSU officials, former player weigh in on Izzo, Cavs
Cavaliers confirm contact with Izzo's camp
Men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo speaks during a press conference March 19 after the victory against New Mexico State University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo has been contacted by the Cleveland Cavaliers regarding the organization’s head coach vacancy, newly introduced Cleveland general manager Chris Grant said at a press conference Tuesday.
“We have had conversations with (Izzo’s) camp,” Grant said. “We’re not going to go into specifics about those conversations.”
Grant’s announcement came one day after MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis confirmed Cleveland was interested in Izzo.
Reports by the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Tuesday said the Cavaliers have informally offered Izzo a 5-year contract potentially worth $30 million or more, and includes the use of owner Dan Gilbert’s private jets.
Grant said the Cavaliers are looking for a coach who is “a winner” and is defensive-minded.
Hollis told the Lansing State Journal on Monday, “I’m doing everything in my power and the university is doing everything in its power to keep him here.”
Multiple messages left with Hollis Monday and Tuesday were not returned.
Members of the MSU Board of Trustees, who approve Izzo’s contract, hope the coach’s ties with East Lansing will be enough for him to stay.
“Coach Izzo is well aware of the fact how much is he loved and appreciated for the job he has done,” said Trustee Donald Nugent, chair of the board’s compensation committee. “His whole family is such a positive contribution to the community. He has to think what’s best for he and his family. I certainly hope that he’ll continue to be our coach. They’re a great family.”
Although university officials said they want to see Izzo remain as MSU’s head coach, they also said the university can’t afford to get in a bidding war with Cavaliers owner and MSU alumnus Dan Gilbert.
“Certainly as a university, we’re not in a position to be competitive from a salary standpoint with professional basketball,” Trustee Melanie Foster said.
Foster said NBA teams have come calling to Izzo before with big contracts, but were unsuccessful in recruiting him.
“If it was about the money, Tom Izzo would have been gone several years ago — probably back when Atlanta was courting him, and that was 10 years ago,” Foster said.
Ten years ago, then-senior guard Charlie Bell and the rest of the Spartans were unsure whether Izzo would return after winning a national championship in 2000, when he was offered a lucrative contract from the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s a tough situation because most of the time when you go to a university, you go for the teammates, you go for the campus and the campus life and all those different things,” Bell said. “But one of the main things you go for is the coach. I’m sure guys would be upset if he left, but at the end of the day, you have coaches that have guys that go to college for one year and turn pro.
“Everyone’s gotta do what’s best for them and whatever Coach does, he does, but he’ll always be a great friend to me and a great friend to the program.”
Izzo and Bell talk occasionally and last saw each other four weeks ago when Bell was coming home from Milwaukee. Bell said Izzo never has talked to him about the NBA.
“We’ll start conversations about recruits coming and the players there right now, and he kind of vents his frustration with me,” Bell said “The NBA though, he hasn’t talked about. It’s one of those things that keeps coming up year in and year out about going to different NBA teams.”
Bell said he has been thinking about calling Izzo, but said he would see what happens because Izzo has a lot of people in his ear.
Bell was unsure what Izzo would decide, but did say it would be difficult for Izzo to leave his roots in East Lansing.
“I think Coach Izzo is very loyal to Michigan State,” Bell said. “He bleeds green — probably literally.”