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Michigan State Spartans' Tom Izzo won't 'never say never' to NBA coaching talks

Michigan State Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo Will Always Fight Rumors of Leaving MSU for the NBA.
Michigan State Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo Will Always Fight Rumors of Leaving MSU for the NBA.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It has been so widely talked about and for such a long amount of time that it has practically become commonplace after each NCAA basketball season: Will Tom Izzo leave Michigan State to coach in the NBA?

The rumor mill concerning Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo leaving for the NBA has been shutdown (somewhat) by Izzo himself.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On Monday, much had been the status quo as it had been for years - resounding "nos" and consistent pushback from the Spartans' leader concerning his leaving East Lansing for "greener pastures". Still, there was a nugget of truth dropped by Izzo in his discussion with ESPNU.

"If somebody made me an offer to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers that was so good that it would impress everybody, does that mean I would never say never?" Izzo said. "I'm not doing that anymore. I've seen too many people get stung that way.

"Put it this way: I've got a big-time recruit coming in an hour and if I was leaving I wouldn't be recruiting.''

Izzo won't "never say never", which one would think would be obvious considering that if a big name team came to him with a multi-trillion dollar contract, only a fool would say no, but it does represent the first actual sign of dissonance from Izzo concerning his possibility of leaving MSU.

Does it mean that Izzo will be leaving for a lucrative deal anytime soon? Most-likely not, but, it does allow for the possibility for Izzo to not look like a "jerk" down the line should he ever decide to change his career path, just like former Michigan State head football coach Nick Saban did with switching careers.

"I still listen to things every day in our town about Nick Saban saying I'm not going to be the Alabama coach [when Saban was coach of the Miami Dolphins]," said Izzo. "Nobody knows where any of us are going to be. You have to look at your track record and, over all these years, is this what he's done?"

Izzo clearly doesn't have any plans to jump the Spartans' ship anytime soon, but he's clearly seen too many fellow coaches caught in lies and deception about career choices - something that he doesn't want to embroil himself in, as well.

So how does Izzo deal with the annual rumor mill sloshing about "hidden secrets" of his departure from MSU for the NBA this time of year? He can't help but smile whimsically.

"I laugh, No. 1,'' Izzo said. "There's me, Billy [Donovan] and I guess Freddy Hoiberg, and Cal's [John Calipari] always in it. ... We're the college guys always mentioned.

"I would just say this -- 13 years ago at Atlanta, when people were looking at me for that job, people recruited against us and said I'd be gone. But 13 years later, the average in our league is three to four different coaching changes at every school [but Purdue]."

Overall, Izzo can't help but be flattered to have so much attention on his coaching skills year after year.

"I heard my name mentioned with jobs over the years and even this year nobody has talked to me even once,'' Izzo said. "So if I'm good enough to coach in that league, and someone thinks I am, I should be good enough to coach college players.''

Bottom line: The NBA is the cream of the crop - the top of the top - but Izzo loves coaching in the NCAA, except for a few growing concerns.

"The NBA is the NBA and it's the top of our profession,'' Izzo said. "Everybody is going to take care of their family. The only thing that disappoints me about college is that we're getting like the NBA -- money, TV contracts and the way we're doing things with expansion of leagues and traveling all over the world. Unlike football, we have a game on the road at 9 p.m and get back at 3 a.m. and have academic issues. We're not a Saturday game-type thing.

"I've had some success and that means sometimes there are rumors and sometimes opportunities, and I guarantee this: If we didn't have success, there would be none.''

You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at

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