The Detroit Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks in February, and possible coaching candidates have been debated, discussed, and dreamed about by Pistons fans ever since. Tom Izzo has been rumored to be a prime candidate for the job, and the rumor is spreading like wildfire. Izzo has been wooed by the NBA before but has never seemed interested in leaving Michigan State.
When asked about the possibility Izzo said, “I have no interest in coaching the Detroit Pistons right now. Does that mean I’d never look at an NBA job? I don’t think any of us should ever say never. I’ve seen my good buddy, Nick Saban, say never and he gets killed.”
The possibility of Izzo leaving can be a scary thought for Michigan State fans. He started coaching the Spartans in 1995, he has a career win percentage of .715. Looking at his resume it’s easy to see why the NBA keeps calling his name, he won a National Championship in 2000 and has been to 6 Final Fours. Izzo has led his Spartans to 7 Big Ten Championships and 4 Big Ten Tournament Championships, including this season’s title. All his success explains why the fans in East Lansing adore him, but he also has earned recognition from the media winning National Coach of the Year, the Henry Iba Award, and the Big Ten Coach of the Year all in 1998. He won Big Ten Coach of the Year two more times in 2009 and 2012.
All the success Izzo has had at MSU makes it tough to leave, but also leaves nothing left to prove. A competitive guy like Izzo has nothing left to prove to himself or others on the college level, but the NBA is a different story. Many top level coaches including Calipari and Pitino have tried the NBA and failed. The NBA would be Izzo’s chance to set himself above other great college coaches.
Izzo has been offered NBA positions before, why would this time be any different? Well, the Big Ten basketball has been evolving in recent years. Most notably, Michigan has regained respect across the nation. They are back on the map and are competing with MSU for recruits now, something Izzo has had a monopoly over in his era as head coach. Last year, the top 2 recruits from the state of Michigan went to Kentucky and Michigan. Not landing big name recruits leave the Spartans future success in doubt, and now that Michigan has re-surged it will be tougher and tougher to land top recruits. Not landing recruits is worrisome for any college basketball team, but especially one that is currently built around seniors. With a strong tournament run, it is very possible that next year’s team doesn’t have Payne, Appling, Harris, or Dawson. If all four players leave, next season would be the start of a major, and tough, rebuilding process. Would Izzo want to stay for a rebuilding project?
Yes, I do think Tom Izzo will be coaching the Michigan State Spartans next season. Job security is at a premium these days in the coaching carousel, and Izzo is a loved legend in East Lansing, it’s tough to leave a town that you’re a living legend in. However, if he does leave, I would not be surprised. All the signs say that now is a great time for Izzo to leave, so if he does, I will thank him for a great run at MSU and wish him the best with his future with the Pistons.