Despite our earlier report that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had told certain players that he was planning on accepting the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job, he has since decided instead to remain at MSU. In a press conference Tuesday night, Izzo spoke to reporters and cited his loyalty to MSU as well as uncertainty about the future of LeBron James as reasons for his decision.
The fact that LeBron James’ silence was a factor shouldn’t be a surprise. The fact that LeBron James is determined to keep the hype and suspense about his future alive well past July 1st (as is his right to do) is going to be a tough hurdle for the Cavaliers to overcome going forward.
As we’ve been saying, nobody knows if Izzo was going to be the right guy for this job or not, but once again the Cavaliers franchise is faced with yet another public relations setback. The Cavaliers were a team desperate for some good news, but came up short again.
In fact, the Cavaliers haven’t had much of anything to smile about since May 7th. That night, the Cavaliers thrashed the Celtics in Boston to take a 2-1 series lead and most felt that the Cavaliers had found their stride and were on their way. Instead, the Cavaliers went on to lose 3 straight games to the Celtics, including one particularly embarrassing Game 5 loss in which LeBron didn’t even seem to care or try.
From there, the Cavaliers have seen LeBron shut down and check out from the franchise, reportedly not even talking to ownership right now. Mike Brown was then fired, and soon after Dan Gilbert decided not to bring Danny Ferry back as GM. When these developments are looked as sequentially, it puts Izzo’s decision to stay away into better perspective.
With flawless hindsight at our disposal, many are beginning to almost suggest that Gilbert made a mistake in firing Mike Brown. Even Plain Dealer beat writer Brian Windhorst seems to be continuously hinting that the Cavs shouldn’t have parted ways with Brown and Ferry. However, that’s easy to say in the face of public rejection, but it doesn’t change the fact that Mike Brown was not getting the job done and a fresh, new voice was needed. Maybe the Cavaliers will find a better coach than Mike Brown, maybe they won’t. However, keeping Mike Brown and just trying to keep status quo on a team that was incapable of winning a championship despite arguably being the best team in the NBA for 2 consecutive seasons would have been foolish.
So for now, Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant will continue to look for the right person to bring that fresh, new voice to this team. Despite all the naysayers who project nothing but doom for this franchise should LeBron James leave, I will continue to stand steadfast in my belief that not only can the Cavaliers survive without LeBron, but this coaching job still has plenty of advantages that make it a desirable job to take.
Say what you will about Dan Gilbert, but he swung for the fences with Tom Izzo and he came unbelievably close to pulling off a miracle. It speaks volumes to Gilbert’s character, passion, and business sense as an owner that he was almost able to bring in a coach like Tom Izzo even without a firm commitment from LeBron. It’s that same tenacity and persistence that give Gilbert a chance to lead the Cavaliers back to success in the future even without LeBron, and there are plenty of coaches who would love to have that kind of support from their owner.
But without LeBron, of course it won’t be easy. Byron Scott is believed by many to be Gilbert’s next preference, but Scott is likely to at least wait until the Lakers coaching situation is settled. If Scott is still available after that, he may look at the Cavaliers, but even then he is likely to only think about taking the job if LeBron is back in Cleveland. Considering the earliest date LeBron is allowed to sign a contract anywhere is July 8th, the Cavaliers are likely looking at a long wait now until the coaching vacancy is filled.
With Jeff Van Gundy rumored to have already passed on interviewing for the job, the only remaining known candidates that have been reported to be on the Cavs’ radar after Byron Scott are Kelvin Sampson and Chris Jent. In all likelihood, the Cavaliers will now have to cast a bit of a wider net in order to find more legit candidates for the job. Personally, I am still holding out hope that Gilbert will at least let Bill Laimbeer interview for the job, but as of now, there have been no indications that he’s on Gilbert’s radar.
Finally, briefly, regarding our report that Izzo told players he was leaving MSU for the Cavs: We had information that was verified by a number of sources and we reported what those sources told us. To this day we stand by these sources as individuals who were in position to have direct knowledge of what happened between Tom Izzo and certain players. We have no reason to believe the sources weren’t told what they thought, but it is now clear that they were either wrong or things changed.
Given this same information from the same sources again, we would report it again, but more clearly and cautiously. We have learned from this. It happened, and we will work to do better going forward.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Al Goldis)