Ten years ago, Tom Izzo was tempted to leave Michigan State University for the then-vacant Atlanta Hawks job after guiding the Spartans to their first national championship since 1979. A decade later, Izzo is again feeling the allure of the NBA; but this time with a different team led by arguably the most recognizable player in the game.
Fresh off leading Sparty to its second consecutive Final Four and sixth in his 15-year tenure, Izzo has been contacted by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and it is worth noting that Gilbert is a Michigan State alum. In fact, the Cavaliers' position is so intriguing that Izzo declined to answer questions regarding the situation at his annual basketball camp, and the coach has gone so far as to contact Kentucky coach John Calipari, who bolted UMass for the New Jersey Nets, about the transition to the professional game and life as an NBA coach. Cleveland has been searching for a coach since announcing that Mike Brown would not return next season.
In another twist of fate, ESPNEWS and the Cleveland Plain Dealer are both reporting that Cavaliers star LeBron James will endorse the hiring of Izzo, despite James' assertions that he will not get involved in the coaching search. James is a pending free agent who will hit the open market on July 1st, and it is unclear as to whether or not he will remain in Cleveland, as the Knicks, Bulls, Heat and Nets are among the many suitors for the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
Should Izzo decide to return to East Lansing for the 2010-11 season, he will have one of his deepest teams ever since replacing Jud Heathcote on the Spartans' bench. Guards Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen are all back for their senior seasons, and the only major player in last year's lineup that will not be back is Raymar Morgan, who graduated last month. Izzo also brings in a strong recruiting class led by shooting guard Keith Appling, a high school teammate of current Spartan forward Derrick Nix, who will enter his sophomore campaign next year.