Indiana is conducting a national search for its next basketball coach, but rumors continue to swirl about a potential candidate closer to home – Michigan State's Tom Izzo. So what makes him a viable candidate? What makes him a long shot? HoosierNation.com has the answers...
bLOOMINGTON - Tom Izzo is a candidate for the vacant IU coaching position?
Those words seem like they should be phrased as an inquiry as opposed to a statement. But there are a handful of people close to the IU Athletics Department who insist the 13th year Michigan State coach would contemplate switching sidelines within the Big Ten Conference.
If that is in fact the case, there aren't too many more qualified candidates for the IU search committee to consider. The 53-year-old Izzo has compiled a 305-129 mark in East Lansing, earned four trips to the Final Four and won the 2000 national title. The Spartans have claimed four Big Ten regular season titles, two Big Ten Tournament titles, and they've been to a Big Ten-best 11 straight NCAA Tournaments. That includes this year's squad, which is 27-8 and earned a spot in the Sweet 16 with a win Sunday over Pitt.
While his teams have been the measuring stick for other Big Ten teams to measure themselves for the last decade, he's also managed to graduate 82 percent of his players who have completed their eligibility, and there have been no issues with the NCAA in regards to rules compliance.
Izzo has built a national power by focusing his recruiting efforts on the Midwest. While many of his best players such as Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Drew Neitzel and Jason Richardson have been Michigan products, he's also shown an ability to go into Illinois (Shannon Brown), Ohio (Delvon Roe) and Indiana (Zach Randolph) to lure top-20 caliber players as well.
His successes on the court and off haven't gone unnoticed or unrewarded. He's won four National Coach of the Year awards and he's among the highest paid coaches in the game. He is in the midst of a seven-year deal that earns him $1.7 million annually, plus a $1 million bonus at the conclusion of each campaign so long as he remains the Spartans' head coach.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: His qualifications are virtually unrivaled in the college game. The former Jud Heathcote assistant took over the Spartan program in 1995 and has worked wonders in East Lansing. He's consistently brought in top-10 caliber recruiting classes, been ranked in the nation's top 25, his teams rebound well, and he's always been an outstanding representative for the university. If he actually did have interest in coming to Bloomington – and mind you, that is a Grand Canyon-sized if – the IU powers that be should thank their lucky stars and do whatever it takes to get him to take over the IU program.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Intra-conference coaching changes are about as common as July snowstorms. It was one thing when then-Iowa Coach Steve Alford was rumored as a possibility to replace Mike Davis in Bloomington two years ago – Alford would have been returning to his alma mater. But Izzo would be jumping from one conference powerhouse to another, a move that's virtually unprecedented in league annals. Izzo is also very close with Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis – the two were roommates in the mid-80s when Hollis was an MSU basketball manager and Izzo was an assistant coach – to be point Izzo was the best man at Hollis' wedding. Izzo has spent 25 seasons with the Spartan program, having served 12 years as an assistant to Heathcote before taking over in 1995. Virtually everything points to this not making any sense at all – other than the constant rumors Izzo would be interested in talking to IU officials about the opening.
HoosierNation.com's Take: It's hard to fathom Izzo being interested in leaving a program that will be among the Big Ten favorites next season for a program that is in trouble with the NCAA and is losing its two best players to the NBA. This is a guy who has spent 25 years with the Spartans program and turned down a $15 million offer to jump to the NBA and coach the Atlanta Hawks in 2000. If he was disenfranchised with MSU, there were rumors of him going to Kentucky last spring, but those proved false and the Wildcats wound up with Billy Gillispie. If there is any merit to Izzo's interest, he must believe that he's done about all he can do at Michigan State and he wants to embark on a new challenge. He has on occasion expressed some frustration with the lofty expectations of Spartan fans, including this year when many thought this year's 25-8 season was a disappointment based on the preseason expectations of a conference championship.
IU Coaching Candidate: Tom Izzo?
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