Will Izzo Coach MSU Next Year?

While MSU fans are delirious with delight over the unexpected Final Four appearance of the Michigan State men's basketball team, AD Ron Mason is now forced to consider a distinctly unpleasant scenario; what if <b>Tom Izzo</b> (getting a head rub from Alan Anderson) decides he wants to be an NBA coach?

EAST LANSING - While MSU fans are delirious with delight over the unexpected Final Four appearance of the Michigan State men's basketball team, Athletic Director Ron Mason is now forced to consider a distinctly unpleasant scenario.

What if Tom Izzo decides to explore NBA coaching opportunites the way Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski did a season ago?

There is expected to be no shortage of suitors for the services of a coach who has stamped himself as consistently one of the best in the collegiate ranks, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, who field arguably the best player in the NBA, LeBron James.

New Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is a graduate of Michigan State and many expect him to make a strong run to nab Izzo after sacking head coach Paul Silas and naming former Pistons assistant Brendan Malone as interim coach.

No one expects Malone to last past this season and Izzo appears to be the main target. The Michigan State head coach has previously received feelers from a Toronto Raptors franchise that is in perpetual disarray. Adding to the mix is the Grant Hill led Orlando Magic who are looking for someone to get them over the hump and perhaps even the Detroit Pistons, who are preparing for the possible departure of Larry Brown at season's end.

The University is rightly not standing still and twiddling its fingers. There are rumors that MSU is looking to name Izzo "coach for life", giving him a pact that continues to rollover at the average of the top coaches in the collegiate ranks until he elects to hang it up. Izzo is reportedly going to receive a $3 million bonus from the University for his accomplishments this fall.

But is what State is offering enough for Izzo and how far should the University go to try to secure his services?

First, I don't like the idea of a lifetime contract. A look at what has happened at Penn State with Joe Paterno, at Colorado with Gary Barnett and at Purdue with Gene Keady should discourage that kind of talk. While none of that is likely to ever happen with Izzo, there has to be an escape from any good contract.

Of course, a coach like Izzo should have a great deal of security and be solidly rewarded for what he has accomplished. A seven to ten-year deal sounds fair.

Izzo too, should have an out in case some dream job scenario that is well defined comes around for him. But this is a marriage that benefits both parties. Izzo has the perfect situation for himself and his family, a University that both respects and adores him and is willing to reward him handsomely for his loyalty.

While it's always flattering to take a look around, Izzo ought to have his eyes wide open to the difficulties of coaching in the NBA and the lack of success college coaches have had atttempting to do so.

He also should know that this Final Four appearance is likely to get some prep blue chippers who've been straddling the fence to clearly side with State, unless there are rumors of the coach leaving to go to the NBA. Izzo should take no more than a week to investigate and make a decision either way. Don't drag matters out any more than that because it will hurt the University, it will hurt recruiting and it will be a drain on him.

While he'll get feelers from several NBA teams, the openings in Detroit and Cleveland are likely the only ones that will really pique the coach's interest, primarily because he doesn't want to move his family too far from East Lansing. Auburn Hills in 90 minutes away, Cleveland three hours by car and 45 minutes via air.

Meanwhile, Mason ought to take a look at the short list of candidates to replace Izzo that he likely has in his desk drawer. It probably has Marquette's Tom Crean at the top of the list and Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson not far behind and maybe even Arkansas' Stan Heath.

But Mason shouldn't be beyond adding a few up-and-comers not on the Izzo-Heathcoat tree to the short list. The thought of having the program fall into the hands of a non Heathcoat-Izzo disciple might be enough to keep the coach tethered in East Lansing.

And don't think for one second that many up-and-coming young coaches or established ones for that matter, wouldn't bolt their respective University for a shot at taking over a program that is among the nation's best.

Unfortunately for both Izzo and Michigan State, success can sometime bring with it unwanted consequences and scenarios. Let's hope this rush of success has a mutally happy ending for all concerned.


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