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Izzo-Watch 2014: DEFCON 4

Will the Timberwolves come knocking?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

So Yahoo and ESPN are both saying Tom Izzo could be a candidate for the Timberwolves job being vacated by a retiring Rick Adelman.  This is more worrisome than the Pistons rumors from a few weeks back given that (1) Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and Izzo are chums and (2) Minnesota was a .500 team this year with a superstar-ish player (Kevin Love) on board, rather than a bottom feeder that would have to be built all the way up from zero.  Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg is also reportedly in the mix.  (UPDATE: Billy Donovan, too.)

After the 2010 "Spartan for Life" proclamation, I'd kind of hoped we were done with this.  But Izzo's competitive instincts could well mean he'll at least consider it.

Izzo is now 59.  He's probably got another four to six years of coaching in him.  So a decision to leave for the NBA really boils down to whether (1) he wants to take one more shot at winning that second NCAA title, with all the recruiting and other headaches that come with it, or (2) he wants to transition out of coaching by taking a shot at the pro game, which is arguably a less emotionally-draining ordeal (although it comes with a much longer schedule of games).  The odds of winning a championship still seem higher at the college level.

Either way, MSU will have to replace Izzo in the not so distant future.  We'd certainly much prefer to see him on the Breslin sideline for another half decade, but the future of the program is coming, one way or another.

Having Dane Fife on staff provides for a very solid internal candidate, with six years of head coaching experience and three years of coaching experience under Izzo.  (The rest of the Izzo coaching tree isn't looking too promising at the moment: All five guys with current head coaching jobs--Tom Crean, Brian Gregory, Stan Heath, Mark Montgomery, and Doug Wojcik--had losing conference records this past season.)  MSU would also be, I think, in a position to be very attractive to someone like Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, or Tony Bennett.  Replacing Tom Izzo will be the first gauge of how "elite" the programs he's left behind is.

I thought I'd skip straight to the brainstorming candidates phase this time around and see if we can't reverse jinx this thing in the bud.  I'd much rather wait until Brad Stevens has scratched his NBA itch and is looking for a college gig to come back to in a few years.