On WFNY’s Izzo report…and his chances in the NBA

You probably heard by now, but our friends at WFNY broke a report earlier this afternoon indicating that Tom Izzo has informed his Michigan State players that he plans to take the Cavaliers Head Coaching job. 

From that report via WFNY:

“Sources close to WFNY have informed us that Tom Izzo has told his players at Michigan State that he plans on taking the Cavaliers job.  Our sources have heard directly from players on the MSU team that Izzo informed them this week that he is planning on making the move up to the NBA level under the ownership of MSU grad Dan Gilbert.  We have also heard from a separate source that Izzo is holding off on announcing this until the end of the week, when his kids finish up school in the Lansing area.”

Now there has not been a mainstream media outlet who has confirmed this – at the time I’m writing this – and a number of people have since spoken out in refute of this report.  But I wouldn’t link to this story if I thought, as Seth Davis does, that this is simply an “idiotic blog report.”  Those guys aren’t idiots.  Whether it comes to be true later this week or not, we will all have to wait and see.  But while we’re waiting, and no pun’s intended there, I’d like to say as publicly as this blog will allow me that I believe those guys.  There’s no part of me that thinks they’d post something like that if they didn’t feel comfortable with the sources that provided them with that information.  And while there might be a number of other websites, blogs, or even mainstream media members that may, or do, post things they don’t believe or aren’t based in truth for effect, for hits, or for whatever reason, WFNY is a site that doesn’t do that type of stuff.  And I don’t believe they did something like that here.  They’re standing by their story, and I applaud them for that.  Nice work fellas, and hang in there…


So back to Izzo, the Cavs, and his possible success in the Association:
  What I was planning to write earlier was about the idea that Izzo won’t succeed in the NBA because other previous college coaches have failed to make the transition successfully.  As we’ve been inundated with, the list is long of college coaches who’ve failed in the professional ranks, and that list does include some notable names to be sure.  A quick rundown of sorts of those recent names (call recent the last 20-30 years) includes guys like Jerry Tarkanian, P.J. Carlesimo, John Calapari, Rick Pitino,Tim Floyd, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, and Mike Montgomery.  But my point here is simple: none of those names belong to Tom Izzo, and I think its extremely short sighted to throw Izzo onto that list and say he had success in college, just like those guys had success in college, and those guys failed in the NBA, so he will fail in the NBA.  Levels of success vary, and while guys like Carlesimo, Montgomery, and Krueger are certainly successful, they weren’t as successful as Tom Izzo.  By that I mean, those three guys combined have half as many Final Four Appearances to their credit as does Tom Izzo by himself.  

That’s one each for that aformentioned trio of failed college coaches in the Association, and that’s in comparison to the six times Izzo took his teams to the Final Four.  And using that metric, as far as Final Four appearances go, the list of the only coaches – ever – to have more Final Four Appearances than Izzo includes only Wooden (12), Coach K (11), Dean Smith (11), and Roy Williams (7).   None of those guys tried their hand at the NBA.  After them is Izzo (6), and after Izzo is Adolph Rupp and Bobby Knight with (5).

So what I’m saying first is that Izzo’s resume is not in the same category as the majority of those that made the preps to pros cash grabstransition.  And two, I still believe he’d translate better than those who did post college resumes of similar stature.  But in saying that, its important to point out that there’s really not many college coaches of a similar track record of success to Tom Izzo who are on this list.  Who did have similar resumes?  Arguments could be made for guys like Jerry Tarkanian (4 FF) and Rick Pitino (now 5 since returing to the college game), but that’s about it.  More on that later, but I didn’t include Calapari for a reason, so first on that… 

For full disclosure I’m not a fan of John Calapari.  He gets credited for the dribble drive motion, but he just uses it, he didn’t invent it.  A HS Coach in California did.  But in saying that, he’s obviously and certainly a good coach.  No debating that.  But he’s not a great coach in my opinion.  For one, we know he failed in the NBA once, but he also never won a thing in college.  Zero Titles, and two trips to the Final Four.  And by never won a thing I’m not at all referencing the fact that his wins at both UMass and Memphis have been since forfeited.  What I am saying about Cal is that he has recently coached Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and John Wall – in three different seasons – and not only could they not win the NCAA title, he only went to the Final Four once in those three seasons.  Just think about that for a minute.  Both guys – Rose and Evans – took the NBA game by storm as rookies, and he had them just one year prior playing for his team, against other college kids – with other good college players alongside – and he couldn’t win it with them.  So Calapari didn’t do so well in the pros?  Well, don’t hold that against Izzo.

And after sorting through those names, looking at Cal, and also looking at or over guys like Tim Floyd, Leonard Hamilton, and whoever else you want to name, you get a couple guys who are actually in the same category as Izzo.  But only a couple, and probably truly only one.  Tark?  Maybe, but I think we might all tend to agree that Larry Johnson and company were probably making six-figures as sophomores, so maybe we’ll push him and his towel to the side of this debate.  In doing so, you are essentially left with – from the last 30 or so years – Rick Pitino as the only college coach with a resume in any way resembling that which Tom Izzo’s put together.  One guy who you can legitimatley claim to have had a “Tom Izzo Type Track Record” in college prior to entering the NBA.  Not a list of guys, just Pitino really.  And we all know Pitino failed with the Knicks, and he failed with the C’s, and we all know who wasn’t walking through that door that one day.  But when it comes to Izzo, should we care about that?  And if we do, are we really going to then say that because Rick Pitino failed in the NBA, Tom Izzo will too?  

That line of thinking makes no sense to me, and if Izzo does make that leap to the league, I think his style will translate to the next level where others before him – similar in some respects and different in others – did not.  Furthermore, I think he’s capable of adding an NBA title as a byline to a Hall of Fame career, and I hope that he does end up doing that in Cleveland.  As coach of the Cavaliers, I feel strongly that he would do well here if he ended up coming, so we’ll see what happens.

Izzo to Cavs Update – 11:51 pm: 

Sources say MSU players believe Tom Izzo is close to taking Cleveland Cavaliers job – The Plain Dealer, Brian Windhorst:

“According to a Michigan State source, Izzo has scheduled a trip to Cleveland on Thursday to meet with team officials and possibly tour the Cavs’ facilities. Whether or [not] Izzo will go through with the trip is unknown. That isn’t the only sign he’s gotten serious about Dan Gilbert’s offer to replace Mike Brown. Sources told The Plain Dealer Wednesday that Michigan State players left a meeting with Izzo Tuesday night believing he was going to take the Cavs’ job.  Izzo didn’t tell the players that directly. He called the meeting to acknowledge reports that he’d been offered the job, but players left afraid they were about to lose their coach.”

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.