Izzo turns down chance to coach Cavaliers, LeBron

Published 1:52 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Tom Izzo is staying at Michigan State, turning down a chance to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers and perhaps LeBron James.

“I knew at the beginning that whatever decision I made would be a decision for life,” Izzo said during a news conference on campus.

“I am going to be a lifer. This is what I’m going to be, and I’m damn proud of it.”

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 coaching one of the best basketball players in the world.

“Just as I decided to stay home, I hope a 6-8, 270-pound forward in Cleveland decides to stay home,” Izzo said in a statement released by the school.

He said he did not talk to James.

“I talked to enough people in his camp,” Izzo said. “He, too, has a very tough decision.”

James’ uncertain future will make for a difficult decision for any prospective Cavs coach. The 25-year-old superstar is unlikely to tip his hand publicly before free agency begins July 1.

Izzo acknowledged the idea of coaching the 25-year-old superstar was very tempting.

“I thought playing one-on-one with LeBron James every day would be a good thing,” he said.

And he admitted turning down the Cavs was a difficult decision.

“How many more offers do you get? How many more opportunities?” Izzo said. “People asked ’why would you want to leave?’ I didn’t. I didn’t want to leave.”

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.”