Tom Izzo resisted the temptation of possibly coaching LeBron James to focus instead on a sure thing - building the next generation of superstars at Michigan State.
“Instead of coaching them in the NBA, I’m going to coach them in the NCAA,” Izzo said Tuesday at a news conference after he turned down a chance to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Izzo rejected the NBA in part because he was unable to speak with James, though he did speak with people in his camp.
“That was one of the key factors, 100 percent true,” Izzo said. “That was not the only factor. Was it a big factor? Sure.”
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James’ uncertain future will make for a difficult decision for any prospective Cavs coach. He is unlikely to tip his hand publicly before free agency begins July 1.
For the past nine days, Izzo has been deciding whether to leave the place that has been his home since 1983 and jump to the NBA to perhaps make $6 million – doubling his salary – and possibly coach one of the best players in the world.
Izzo admitted the idea of coaching James was very tempting. His son, Steven, too, was intrigued by James.
“I’ll admit, if you want to be mad at somebody, Steven thought playing one-on-one with LeBron James would be a good time every day, so be mad at him.”
Now, Izzo’s hoping James will join him for “stay-at-home month,” referencing the 25-year-old superstar’s uncertain future.
“I’m staying at home,” Izzo said. “I hope he stays.”
A decade after declining to coach the Atlanta Hawks, Izzo vowed he would not entertain another offer.
“I knew at the beginning that whatever decision I made would be a decision for life,” Izzo said.
“I am going to be a lifer. This is what I’m going to be, and I’m damn proud of it.”
Izzo’s decision ends a nearly two-week courtship by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who was hoping a reported five-year $30 million contract would be enough to land the Spartans’ coach, and show James he intends to remake the Cavs after a bitter postseason loss.
SUNS GM KERR DONE
Steve Kerr won’t return as general manager of the Phoenix Suns, despite building a team that made a surprising run to the NBA’s Western Conference finals.
Kerr said at a news conference the decision was a personal one. He insisted that reports of a contract disagreement with owner Robert Sarver were untrue.
“This has nothing to do with money or contracts or anything like that,” he said. “This is a professional and a personal decision that I’m very, very comfortable with. My family’s excited about it, too.”
The announcement of his departure came just 21/2 weeks after he expressed excitement about his future with the Suns and confidence he and Sarver would come to an agreement on a new contract.
“It’s always important to take a little down time after a season ends to let the emotion kind of simmer and make a clear-headed decision,” Kerr said.
He said “a couple of opportunities” to get back into broadcasting have surfaced in the last few weeks.