Tom Izzo in Cleveland to Discuss Cavaliers Coaching Job


CLEVELAND — Tom Izzo is in Cleveland and may finally be ready to jump to the NBA.

A person familiar with his travel plans told The Associated Press that the Michigan State coach arrived in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon.The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Cavs are not commenting on their coaching search.

Izzo landed at County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio. His plane, which left East Lansing, Mich., was diverted there because of the number of TV cameras at Burke Lakefront Airport, the person said. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert did arrive at Burke, which is a short drive from Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs' downtown home.

Izzo was expected to meet with Gilbert and other members of Cleveland's front office and tour the team's facilities. He is believed to be mulling a contract worth up to $6 million a season.

The team has been searching for a coach since firing Mike Brown following the club's second-round playoff collapse to the Boston Celtics.

Brown spent five seasons with Cleveland, leading the team to 127 regular-season wins the past two seasons. However, he failed to get LeBron James back to the finals and the Cavs decided to make a change.

Izzo's decision on the Cavaliers could hinge on James' future. The two-time MVP can become a free agent July 1, and is expected to entertain offers from several teams.

It is not known if Izzo has contacted James, who has been with Cleveland for seven seasons and recently said the Cavs have "an edge" to re-sign him.

New general manager Chris Grant said this week the team has had contact with Izzo but would not comment on whether an offer has been made. Gilbert is a Michigan State graduate and has known Izzo for years.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement that Izzo "made me aware he is meeting with Cleveland." Hollis added that details of any meetings are "between him and me."

Text messages were sent to Izzo on Thursday.

Izzo has been at the school since 1983 and has been the Spartans coach since 1995, leading them to six Final Fours in the past 12 years. He has spurned previous overtures from the NBA, but the Cavs may have given him more to consider. Izzo must weigh leaving a familiar situation that pays $3 million a year for probably as long as he wants the job, and perhaps a legacy that would put him among college basketball's all-time greats, for a chance to coach a team that doesn't know if it will have James next season.

In recent years, several successful college coaches, including Rick Pitino, Tim Floyd and John Calipari, have struggled in switching to the pro game while Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is a rare exception.

Several of Izzo's former players believe he can make the leap.

"I don't think coach would have a problem getting respect in an NBA locker room," New Orleans Hornets guard Morris Peterson said. "I think guys will buy into what he's telling them because he has a gift with people. Izz is one of the smartest coaches in basketball and one of the nicest guys around."

Milwaukee Bucks guard Charlie Bell said Izzo may have to alter his intensity when he talks to players who are making more than him and perhaps a superstar in James who would have more power.

"I've heard he's not as hard on guys as he used to be," Bell said. "He'd have to tone it down even more in the pros."

Grant said the Cavaliers have spoken to a "number" of candidates. One may include former Hornets coach Byron Scott, whose resume would make him attractive to Cleveland.

Scott won three NBA titles as a player and has experience in coaching such stars as Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. Scott is now working as a TV analyst.

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