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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Izzo rejects offer to coach Cavs

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) 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.

News photo
Cavalier disregard: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has turned down an offer to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. AP PHOTO

"Instead of coaching them in the NBA, I'm going to coach them in the NCAA," Izzo said Tuesday night 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."

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 trying to decide 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 basketball players in the world.

Izzo readily admitted that the idea of coaching James was very tempting.

Now, he'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."

Izzo certainly plans to.

A decade after declining a contract 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 perhaps show James he intends to remake the Cavs following a bitter postseason loss.

"The entire Cleveland Cavalier organization has nothing but respect and admiration for Coach Izzo and his family," Gilbert said in a statement. "Tom is a special person in so many unique and positive ways. We only wish great things for him and his family in all the years ahead."

Izzo didn't seem at ease as he walked into his news conference along with his wife, Lupe, Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis.

He kept his head down when Simon made her opening remarks, sipping water, tapping his feet and fidgeting with his fingers and rubbing his hands.

This past season, Izzo led the Spartans to the Final Four for the sixth time in 12 years. Only the late John Wooden at UCLA and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski also have done that.

"It's a great day, knowing he's coming back," said Mateen Cleaves, perhaps Izzo's favorite player and one of the stars from his 2000 national championship team. "It put the biggest smile on my face to know he's coming back."

Milwaukee Bucks guard Charlie Bell, who played on the 2000 national championship team, was also glad to hear Izzo's staying: "Izzo is Michigan State basketball."

For Cleveland, Izzo's decision appears to be another setback.

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