The job falls to Erik Spoelstra, but the question still hangs over the situation: Who is the best coach for LeBron James? Who can connect with him, who can get more out of his game?
Dan Gilbert was convinced that man was Tom Izzo, something he said in his Sports Illustrated interview (from which we discussed some of his other comments).
“You asked about LeBron and what it would take for him to get to that [championship] level — I think it has to come from the inside,” Gilbert said. “[Izzo] is one of these guys who is extremely passionate and emotional, and I think that’s what LeBron needs. Mike Brown [who was recently fired as coach], as great as he was, he wasn’t going to have that one-on-one relationship like Phil [Jackson] had with Jordan. [Izzo] had that right stuff without having the NBA experience, and so we probably would have wanted to bring him some extremely experienced assistants.
“But then LeBron wouldn’t even talk to [Izzo]. Wouldn’t even talk to him. Those are the things we let him get away with.”
Izzo is a very well respected and loved coach by all Michigan State alums, like Gilbert. He is a fantastic, legendary college coach. So pardon my skepticism that he was going to reach LeBron.
To really get players to buy in you have to get their respect. Nobody could get Kobe and Shaq to play nice together until Phil Jackson and him Michael Jordan rings and pull walked in the room. You have to have that kind of presence, through precedence or earned in the gym with the team.
Pat Riley has that. He transfers it to Spoelstra (at least for now). Izzo is a college coach who has gotten good talent to play like great talent. But can he reach great talent? That is a very different question all together.
Gilbert, however, was in a position where he needed to take some risks, he needed to make big moves. Izzo would have been that.