Each year Tom Izzo is one of several NCAA men’s basketball coaches mentioned to make the leap to the NBA, and this year has been no different. However, in a podcast today with ESPN the Michigan State coach has responded to rumors, stating that he will not be heading to the NBA.
Rumors have been bouncing around the league that he might leave the Spartans and East Lansing, Michigan to take over the head coaching job for either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Detroit Pistons. These rumors were squashed this morning in an interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz.
It is no wonder Izzo is so sought after in the NBA ranks, considering the high level of success he has achieved as the head coach of Michigan State. In 18 years, he has led the team to seven Big Ten Championships, six Final Four’s and the National Championship in 2000. He was also named the AP National Coach of the year in 1998, and awarded Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1998, 2009, and 2012.
NBA GM’s and executives care about winning, and winning is something that Izzo has done throughout his career. He currently ranks third all-time in winning percentage among Big Ten coaches at .688, and fourth in overall winning percentage at .712. His ability to lead his teams to victories, along with other elite coaches like Billy Donovan of Florida and John Calipari of Kentucky usually has NBA teams chomping at the bit to acquire the highly-accomplished college coaches. So far, the allure of the bright lights of the NBA have not been enough to sway any of them to leave the college hardwood. Rumors swirled around Donovan and Calipari immediately following the end of the college basketball season, and now Tom Izzo becomes the latest of the elite to say thanks, but no thanks to the NBA.
While Tom Izzo’s record of 439-178 as the head coach speaks for itself, his ability to graduate student athletes also stands out. In his 18 years at Michigan State, 82 percent of his players who completed their eligibility have graduated. It is a remarkable feat, and one of the reasons why Izzo is among one of the elite coaches in college basketball.
When asked what he thinks about the swirling rumors, he said he laughs about it, but also sees the rumors as being a compliment. While the top profession in the basketball world would be the NBA, Tom Izzo is not exactly making chump change at Michigan State University. His salary for the 2013 season placed him fourth among active college basketball coaches, earning a base salary in excess of $3.2 million, and including bonuses he eclipsed $3.7 million on the season.
As the NCAA has seen more and more college basketball players forfeit their eligibility and make early leaps to the NBA in recent years, it is encouraging to see elite coaches like Tom Izzo say no to the NBA. As the coach of Michigan State, he has the ability to have complete control over recruiting and coaching, and even though college basketball is not the NBA, he is getting paid very well and appears to enjoy his life as a collegiate coach. Spartans fans will rejoice with the news, knowing that as long as Izzo remains in East Lansing, they will continually be one of the front-runners to make deep runs every March, and have a legitimate chance at winning it all.
Commentary by Johnny Caito