Recently, rumors swirled that the University of Oregon was going to make a strong play for Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. The rumors were quickly shot down by Izzo himself and speculation quickly turned towards Minnesota coach Tubby Smith as choice #1 for the Ducks.
But just because Izzo isn’t packing his bags for the West coast doesn’t mean that he won’t pack his bags and leave East Lansing…if his Spartans win the National Championship.
According to sources close to Izzo, the New Jersey Nets have made clandestine overtures too attractive and convincing for Izzo to ignore. And, the source explains, if Izzo wins his second title — on the heels of making the Final Four in six out of his last 12 seasons — he will have little else to prove at the college level and will be ready for a new challenge, among many reasons why he’d leave.
If the Spartans win, it’s a “done deal,” says my source.
According to the most recent issue of B.S. Magazine, the billionaire has had his sights set on Izzo ever since acquiring the team.
I have given immense study to basketball and what makes successful basketball player and team. Often I have heard about the, what you call it, “izzone” that players credit for good performance. “I was just in the izzone that night,” they say. In the Nets, we want to have this izzone on nightly basis. Money is no concern.
While Prokhorov is careful not to explicitly state his desire to pry the Michigan State coach away from the Breslin Center, not wanting to create a distraction for the coach during the Final Four, the inference is clear.
My source for this story, who did not want to be identified for obvious reasons, has said that the initial contract offer for Izzo is $10 million per year plus perks like unlimited corporate jet use. The source explained that it will not be an easy decision for Izzo because of his Michigan roots and affinity for Michigan State University, but that the money and opportunity simply may be too good to pass up if he can win his second title.
Plus, Izzo knows that the Nets will be actively courting the NBA’s best free agents and will likely get one or two of them. Previous college coaches have failed in the NBA because they often went to terrible teams. The Nets are awful this year but could be turned around immediately with the addition of one or two superstars and a competent coach.
Additionally and on a related note, I was given a tip regarding documents floating around the Nets marketing department that are rather interesting. These documents reveal that work is being done for a remix of a song first recorded by Prokhorov’s Nets co-owner Jay-Z in 2000. The song, called “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)“, would obviously have new relevance and be purportedly be given an eponymous second life as the official theme song of the Nets and their new coach.
The next obvious question for Spartan fans and Big Ten fans is who would take over at Michigan State in the event that Izzo leaves. When I posed this question to my source, he answered almost before I get the question out: Tom Crean. In fact, the ability to hand the job over to Crean would be a motivating factor in Izzo leaving.
Remember, Crean was hired by the Spartans in 1989 as a graduate assistant by Jud Heathcoat based on Izzo’s recommendation. That hire led to this awesome picture:
Once Izzo got the head job in East Lansing in 1995, he immediately hired his tan friend to be one of his assistants and the two built Izzo’s national title team together before Crean left to take the Marquette job.
Now, Crean is coaching at Indiana and mired in a two-season stretch during which he’s gone 16-46 and is already feeling heat from petulant, impatient, unrealistic IU zealots. Izzo apparently feels that Crean is in a no-win situation and would love to help his friend out by turning over Michigan State’s well-oiled machine to Crean. Considering the hand Crean had in getting the program to where it is today , Izzo feels — according to my source — that he owes him and that it provides further impetus and justification to leave for the Nets.
And that’s where this story gets really interesting.
The name I am hearing whispered as Crean’s possible replacement in Bloomington? You’ll think I’m making this up, but it’s Bob Knight.
The university is reportedly ready to offer Knight a blank chank, rename Assembly Hall after him, replace the statue in Showalter fountain with one of Kent Benson boxing out, and give him final say over everything basketball-related, as well as a 50-tolerance policy in place of his previously mandated zero-tolerance policy — meaning he can engage in 50 blowups, assaults, profanity-laced lambastes, etc., before the university will consider action…like how things were in the 80s.
Okay, fine. Indiana isn’t ready to give Knight all of that. I take it back. April Fool’s! Ha, ha. But…for obvious reasons he would be the #1 choice should the Izzo-Crean dominoes fall as described above. And why not? The Indiana fan base has had nothing to feel good about in over two years while reports have circulated ever since he left Texas Tech that Knight still wants to coach. Knight would reportedly want to bring his son Pat with him and then hand the program over after 2-3 years.
We’ll have to wait and see on that one. IU fans shouldn’t get too excited yet as a lot still has to happen for the Red Sweater to be back roaming the IU bench.
Now the question for Michigan State fans is this: knowing that Tom Izzo will probably bolt East Lansing if the Spartans win the title, do you want them to win it all and then have Tom Crean take over next year? Or would you rather the Spartans fall just short, as they did last year, but keep your coach and the expectation of a Final Four once every two years?
Chime in below.
* – Tom Izzo photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images via About.com
* – Tom Crean / Tom Izzo at Michigan State photo credit: wiki.muscoop.com