MICHIGAN ST. TO ATLANTA: “SAY IT AIN’T IZZO!”

Tom Izzo has a serious decision to make. The Head Coach of the
Michigan St. Spartans has to decide whether to return to a National
Championship Team back in East Lansing or jump ship and take over a
team that was so bad that it forced the winningest coach in the NBA
to step down.

Doesn’t sound like too tough of a decision. Michigan St. just gave
Coach Izzo a brand new 7 year contract worth a little over $1 million
a year. Coach Izzo has also just signed one of the highest rated
recruiting classes in Spartan history. The Atlanta Hawks who are
trying to woo Izzo away from Michigan St. are coming off an abysmal
year — a year in which they failed to make the playoffs, cut their
leading scorer, J.R. Rider, in March after repeated battles with his
mouth and infamous alarm clock and forced Hall of Fame Coach Lenny
Wilkens to resign. Why would anyone want to go there?

Can you say $2 million? Not as in annual salary but as in a $2
million dollar raise. That’s right. The Atlanta Hawks are offering
Tom Izzo $3 million a year for 5 years. All he has to do is coach
their team. He doesn’t even have to answer questions and tell Regis
Philbin the dread “final answer” phrase.

Past articles have dealt with why coaches “flirt” with the NBA
(see Pacers Courting Huggins)
Generally, it is a nice bargaining chip to use in negotiations. The
school’s AD and President hear the rumors and want to “reward” their
coach for his efforts with a nice new contract extension that usually
involves a hefty raise and free green fees for the coach and all his
cousins. Izzo’s motivation would seem to be different. His contract
just got extended. It’s not likely that his administration would go
back and give him another contract a month after signing the last one.

The media has thrown in our face more times than we can count that
Izzo and Steve Mariucci are old friends. Maybe this is the one time
when they should actually be checking it out. The college roommates
have followed similar paths in their respective careers. Now Izzo may
want to take the same leap that Mariucci did a few years ago. Yeah,
the Atlanta Hawks are not the 49ers of the NBA but Izzo is coming off
a National Championship that has placed him on top of the mountain.
Maybe now he’s looking for another Everest to climb. The Hawks are
definitely a challenge.

Izzo has said that he will make his decision quickly. Don’t tell me
it’s not about the money. He wouldn’t switch jobs for free. But he is
probably thinking deeply about the next challenge and from where it
will come. Somebody tell him repeating isn’t easy and then give him
Calipari’s number.