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June 08, 2010

If he goes there will be trouble...

To start, a pair of sneak-preview quotes from Mark Hollis that will appear in a Tuesday story on the situation at hand.

    Hollis on Tom Izzo: “I’m doing everything in my power and the university is doing everything in its power to keep him here. If it comes out that he wants to win an NBA world championship, that’s up to him to decide.
    “I hope to be here for his retirement party. … I’m prepared to do anything to protect our school.”

    Hollis on Dan Gilbert: “He’s a quality guy and he’s a great Spartan. He has a business to run and we have a business to run. I happen to look at college basketball coaches in a certain way – John Wooden, Dean Smith, Jud Heathcote, the legends in basketball are the college coaches. But that’s up to Tom to determine.”

    And I think it's going to take some time. Along with Hollis' outspoken response, Monday yielded some information from the Cleveland side of things that doesn't reach the standard of appearing in the newspaper story -- but is just fine for us to discuss here.

    Basically, it appears my initial take was wrong. I assumed Gilbert would not make an offer without some kind of LeBron blessing. I wondered if they were collaborating or communicating in any way. Apparently not, and if that's true, that means Gilbert is hoping to get Izzo committed and signed before LePursuit of continued relevance for his franchise is completed.

    Do you suppose Izzo will sign under those circumstances? I don't care if it's for $6 million a year as reported here, or for $10 million a year as someone threw out today. No way.

    So if Izzo is offered (Hollis reiterated tonight that no written offer has been submitted, which doesn't mean terms haven't been relayed in some way), and there's no assurance or indication from James (the word is, that's unlikely), then Izzo can either kill this quickly ... or we can all wait. And wait. Until July 1. Or maybe until mid-July or so, if James wants to prolong the intrigue.

    If this isn't ended, it isn't over, no matter how quiet it may get. So let's imagine that's the scenario. Izzo holds off and Gilbert allows him to do so. James finally decides to remain with Cleveland, which seems the most likely result. Maybe another top free agent comes along. Izzo has to make a decision.

    Since I wisely promised a top-10 list every day to get through the dull days of summer, let's do the Top Ten Reasons Izzo Will Stay Or Go Now -- five of each. To be clear, this is my opinion only. It's somewhat educated, but this does not come from Izzo.

    Reasons he'll go, ranked in order:

    1. The rare opportunity. Please go back and find a better pro situation for a college coach than this one. Izzo would have a chance to win multiple NBA championships, now. He would become the second coach to win it all at the college and pro level, joining Larry Brown. He'd get a chance to coach a guy who will ultimately be listed among the best ever to play the game. Izzo is a life experience guy, it's part of the reason he has scheduled his teams to play in virtually every college arena of note, and this would be quite a scrapbook chapter. The 55-year-old Izzo will never get a better offer to leave.

    2. Family. When the season's on, the NBA is a blur of travel and games. But in the NBA, there's actually an offseason. In college, there are a couple weeks in August when you can truly get away. The rest of the summer, you're at AAU tournaments wondering how John Calipari just landed that trio of five-star prospects without ever showing up in person. When you add up all the things that eat at your time as a college coach, an NBA job is definitely family-friendly by comparison. And Izzo's kids are getting older.

    3. Reduced headaches. This goes right along with No. 2. In the NBA, you don't have to recruit anymore. You don't have to worry that every word said or written may somehow help U-M reverse the tides. You don't have to worry about professors, parents, administrators, fund raisers, obscure NCAA rules or perspective-lacking fans ... although if Izzo thinks some of those Breslin crowds are stuffy ... by the way, how's that re-seating going?

     4. The challenge. Izzo has been tracking the message boards since the late 1990s, and he promised himself that he'd bolt for the pros in tandem with the 10 billionth post that said: "Izzo's style doesn't translate to the pros!" It just happened. I don't think that's true, but there's no question Izzo feeds off proving people wrong, and there are a lot of people who have been saying for a long time that he can't adapt to the NBA game. This job is a great chance to stick it to 'em.

    5. Money. This belongs below the other points, but it belongs. Izzo likes money. It's not like he's eating pasties every day and changing his own oil.

    Reasons he'll stay:

    1. Relationships. With his returning players, his incoming recruits, his longtime friend and athletic director, with this community and state. A relatively new but genuine and important bond with Mark Dantonio. This factor will trump all else, I'm predicting, when it's time for Izzo to decide.

    2. Immortality. Hollis' quote above about Wooden, Smith and Heathcote says a lot. Unless you're Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson or maybe Pat Riley, your name may as well be Richie Adubato. College coaches are revered, much more than their pro counterparts, and that matters to Izzo. And for all he talked early in his career about how he'd never be catching anyone's records, look at him now. Project another 10 years of this kind of success. It's all-time great territory, in every category. He already has a hall-of-fame resume, but he'd be forfeiting a lofty spot in college basketball's annals by leaving now.

    3. Increasing headaches. For all the problems you ditch by leaving college basketball, you pick up new ones in the pros. Everyone's a millionaire. Everyone has an agent and a personal chef. I do believe Izzo would change his style on the sidelines to match his environment -- I mean, do you really think he'd yell at Big Z the way he used to yell at G? No. However, I also think the realities of the 82-game schedule would eat at him. A snowy February night in Philadelphia and his guys are displaying all the intensity of a group of stoners playing Hacky Sack outside their dorm. And we haven't even started talking about the vast difference in control. He'd be going from complete control of his very own program to a supporting role in LeBron James' franchise. That's big.

    4. A great team. Izzo has one, or at least the potential for one, at MSU in 2010-11. If this were a rebuilding year, it might be easier to make a move. Someone made the point today that the loaded roster might mean Izzo feels better about handing the job off to someone else. That makes sense. Still, looking at MSU and the rest of college basketball, this is a very real opportunity to get that second championship Izzo covets.

    5. Family. The Izzos have roots here, the kids have their schools and lifelong friends. This would be more of a factor if we were talking about the Lakers or something. Cleveland's relative proximity is, no doubt, a plus. And this decision is, no doubt, a tough one for Izzo.
 

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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