Cavs Still Without a Coach as Izzo Stays at Michigan State

Steve O Speak

You got to feel for the Cleveland Cavaliers and how things have gone for them these past few months. For the last couple of years this team was at the pinnacle of the Eastern Conference, but now nothing seems to be going right, and unfortunately things could still be getting worse.

Things took a turn when the Cavs lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs this season to the Boston Celtics. It was the 2nd straight year that the Cavaliers had the league’s best record, but wasn’t able to advance to the finals. This lack of ability to get over the playoff hump, was seen as a sign that superstar LeBron James would likely be leaving this summer when he becomes a free agent. The answer for the Cavs seemed to be to replace head coach Mike Brown, (who should have been replaced regardless) and bring in a big name guy to entice James to stay.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was supposed to be that big name guy. Izzo is thought of as one of the top college basketball coaches in the country and definitely has that big name recognition. While he had never coached in the NBA before (and the success rate of college coaches isn’t high), Izzo would have given Cleveland fans hope, that they will not only retain LeBron, but can finally win that championship.

It looked as though the Cavaliers were going to get their man in Izzo and were prepared to pay him $6 million a year over the next 5 years. That $6 million would have put him among the highest paid coaches in the league (and in all of professional sports), without ever having one NBA win to his credit. That was a major financial commitment, that seemed too good to walk away from. Except that is exactly what Izzo did. After two weeks of reports that he would likely be making the jump to the NBA, Izzo declared yesterday that he is staying at Michigan State.

What’s even more troubling for the Cavs isn’t that Izzo is staying and they missed out on their number one choice, but rather the reason why he isn’t coming to Cleveland. And that reason is the uncertainty of LeBron James returning to the team. Izzo made it very clear that his inability to talk with LeBron, and obstinately get an answer to James staying in Cleveland weighed heavily in his decision not to take the job. While I don’t blame James for not giving a clear cut answer and commend him on his decorum, by not being put in a position to lie or say no, it is troubling for the team.

It shows to me that James is either still unclear about his decision, or that he has decided to test the free agent waters, and see what offers come in. For James if he leaves Cleveland he will leave money on the table, but could dictate a situation where he has a better chance of winning a title (not to mention endorsement dollars in a big city could easily make up the difference). I think Cleveland really needs to start to prepare for life after James, but first they need to move on to their second choice of a head coach.

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