Tom Izzo Speaks. Very Briefly. And We Start Thinking About Potential Successors.

Izzo:

"It's not gonna be forever, that's for sure." [On the timetable for making a decision]

"I feel bad about this.  I feel bad about all this stuff. But I do feel good that I did what I had to do." [On talking to Cleveland]

"I appreciate the kids. I always have." [On last night's rally]

The first quote would indicate this thing probably isn't going to drag out past Monday.  He's going to make a decision not knowing for sure where LeBron James will play next season.  The fact that the Cleveland brass doesn't appear to all be on the same page in terms of Izzo being the first choice could also work to our advantage--although the owner's preference is almost certainly going to trump the (brand new) GM's.  Sure seems like the worst case scenario with the Cavaliers has to a be a concern for Izzo: coaching a team in rebuilding mode without the full support of the personnel team.

You can also spin the second quote positively from our perspective.  It sounds an awful lot like "He owes it to himself to do his due diligence."

The third quote is perhaps the most concerning.  As LVS noted last night, the use of the past tense at the end makes the statement sound somewhat wistful.

As LVS also noted, the time for parsing statements may be over.  Now it's up to Tom Izzo and his family to take some time and figure out what makes the most sense for their future.

At this point, I don't think I'm a reliable analyst any more in term of providing an objective assessment of the situation.  My glasses are too Pantone Matching System Color 567-tinted, and, despite a full night's sleep, my brain is still fairly fried.  That said, I think it's probably a coin flip.

We're now at the point that talking about potential successors is a rational activity.  My stupendous preliminary opinions:

  • If it's going to be someone from the Izzo coaching tree, it's going to be Brian Gregory.  Tom Crean is already coaching one of the most storied programs in the history of the sport--and he's got a $3.0 million buyout.  Jim Boylen would have been a plausible option a year ago, but I don't see it now.  Stan Heath has turned USF into a competitive (middle-of-the-pack) Big East team, but was a flop at Arkansas before that.  Doug Wojcik has been solid at Tulsa, but has yet to do anything eye-popping.
  • Promoting the top assistant when there's not a planned transition (as there was from Heathcote to Izzo) rarely works out.  I have nothing against Mark Montgomery, but it just doesn't make sense to hand the reins of a nationally-contending basketball program over to someone without any head coaching experience.  What's the upside over bringing in Gregory?  Personal connections with the current players?  That's an advantage for maybe one season, and you can't make this decision based on one season, regardless of how much promise that season holds.
  • Scott Skiles does not make sense. He's connected to MSU, but not to Izzo's coaching philosophy, so it does nothing to smooth the transition.
  • Bill Self is not leaving Kansas.
  • I think Mark Hollis should take a hard look at one or more coaches from outside the MSU family.  Three guys with very good track records of success nationally, whose current employers probably couldn't match MSU's financial resources: Brad Stevens, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few.  Few might play too fast; Stevens might play too slow; Dixon probably plays just right (with a similar emphasis on rebounding).
  • Still, Stevens should definitely be in the mix.  Winning slow beats losing fast.  He's a Midwest guy.  Smart as heck.  He just signed an extension with Butler, but that has to be at least partly a function of waiting for a plum job to open up, rather than making the kind of mistake Todd Lickliter did when he left Butler for Iowa.  The 12-year term of Stevens' recent contract extension is meaningless; the question is the buyout amount, which appears to be unknown.
  • At the end of the day, Brian Gregory will be the heavy favorite when/if Hollis gets to the point of having to replace a legend.  He'd be a solid choice.  But he's not a slam dunk.  As I pointed out on Tuesday, he's only been to the NCAA Tournament twice in seven years, the first appearance occurring in his first season with the Flyers.  And he's only posted winning records in Atlantic 10 play three times in those seven seasons.  (I was going to point out that Iowa didn't pick him for their job, but apparently that wasn't the case.) If there is a coaching search, it needs to be a multi-candidate search befitting the kind of program Tom Izzo has turned MSU into.

OK, enough of that.  First, I tell you Izzo's comments can be read to indicate he's leaning toward staying.  Then I launch into a full-fledged analysis of potential successors.  I've officially lost it.

On to the World Cup.  (For now.)

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