Yahoo Sports ran a story Friday on the evolution of the Lebron-to-Miami deal written by Adrian Wojnarowski. (Remember him? The guy's who's reporting first set us on edge six weeks ago?) The story's definitely worth a read just for the inside looks at James' mindset and Pat Riley's recruiting abilities, but there's also a bit in there about our main man:
The franchise was in complete upheaval, and [Owner Dan] Gilbert had the Cavaliers trying everything possible to impress a non-responsive James. The Cavaliers star had started to fully distance himself from the organization. He refused to get on the phone and discuss his future with Michigan State’s, whom Gilbert had offered $30 million to take over as coach.
Before the Cavaliers ever reached out to him, Izzo turned down a less lucrative offer to coach the Chicago Bulls. James wasn’t returning Gilbert’s calls and messages – never mind willing to talk with Izzo. Before Izzo finally turned down Gilbert, he was delivered a direct line to two of James’ close NBA friends, who told him he should only take the job with an expectation he’ll never coach James in Cleveland. Gilbert tried to sell Izzo, but the coach feared there wasn’t a single influential official in the Cavs organization who truly had a relationship with James.
First, it's interesting to note that two franchises both in the thick of the LeBron bidding went after Izzo. The article implies the Bulls made a pretty active play for Izzo. That speaks to the respect Izzo commands even at the professional level. At least two teams thought he was the right guy to attract and coach LeBron James (who comes across in the article as someone who needs a more authoritative presence around him).
Second, Izzo apparently got some pretty good intel during those last few days of the around-the-clock watch in East Lansing. The conventional wisdom at the time was that James was still likely to stay in Cleveland, but Izzo was being told otherwise by people with direct knowledge of James' thinking. This heightens the sense that Tom Izzo looked very, very seriously at the option of taking the Cavs job. If Izzo had sensed that James was, in fact, leaning toward staying in Cleveland, who knows where things would stand now.
That's pretty interesting stuff from a retrospective learning-what-happened-behind-the-scenes perspective, but shouldn't in any way detract from Izzo's ultimate decision to stay put. Tom Izzo is "here for life at Michigan State." The fact he took a serious look at the Cleveland job and then made a well-informed decision to turn it down speaks to (1) his competitiveness and (2) his savvy--two skills we look forward to seeing in action for the Green and White for the indefinite future.