Michigan State coach Tom Izzo turned down a chance to coach the Atlanta Hawks in 2000. For many college coaches, even successful ones, one shot at an NBA job is the maximum. But Izzo has kept plugging away in East Lansing, reaching four Final Fours since 2000 with a chance for a fifth this season.
It doesn’t hurt to have a couple Spartans owning NBA teams, either.
One name he’s expected to go after is Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Having already fired Maurice Cheeks and not getting a bump with interim coach John Loyer, the Pistons will need a coach this offseason. Considering they might also need a new general manager, Gores could have a big say in the coaching search.
Would Izzo finally jump? Maybe.
He put a lot of time and energy into recruiting Jabari Parker, who ultimately went to Duke. That left Michigan State’s recent recruiting classes thin relative to college basketball’s other powers. A good coach like Izzo could probably mold these recruits into good players by the time they’re upperclassmen, but would he want to endure that rebuild – and the lean years that could come between – if an NBA job is available?
Izzo, who made more than $3.7 million last season, would definitely require a raise to leave Michigan State. And increasing his salary would likely place him among the NBA’s top half of coaches.
Considering how rarely college coaches translate to the NBA, that does not seem like the best use of Gores’ money.
Izzo instills a strong competitiveness in his players and he knows how to navigate the arc of a season in order to have his team peaking in March, two skills that make him a great college coach. He also possesses a bright basketball mind, which could make him a great NBA coach.
Hiring Izzo would be a big risk for the Pistons, albeit one that could pay off in a big way. Is it worth the cost? Only if Gores wants to pay it.
If I were owner, though, I’d spend that much only to get one of the many proven NBA head coaches – George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins – who are possibly available.