Tom Izzo Rejects Cleveland Cavaliers to Stay at Michigan State `For Life'

Tom Izzo gave up the chance to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers and committed himself to Michigan State University.

Izzo, who has guided the Spartans to 13 straight men’s college basketball national tournaments, was the Cavaliers’ preferred choice to succeed Mike Brown. Cleveland, which finished with the best record in the National Basketball Association for the second straight season, ended Brown’s five-year stint as coach last month after a second-round playoff exit against the Boston Celtics.

“It’s been an agonizing week as I tried to make a decision about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Izzo said in a statement on the school’s website. “I’m pleased to say I am here for life at Michigan State.”

Izzo’s decision comes two weeks before two-time reigning National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player LeBron James becomes a free agent. The 25-year-old, who has averaged 27.8 points and seven rebounds per game in seven seasons with the Cavaliers, is a target for the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets among others, according to media reports. Izzo said he’d like James to remain a Cavalier.

“I hope he stays,” Izzo said.

Four-time national Coach of the Year Izzo started at Michigan State in 1995. The 55-year-old guided the Spartans to the 2000 championship and has taken the school to the Final Four six times. His teams also won six regular-season Big Ten championships and two Big Ten tournament titles. He’s staying because he hasn’t achieved everything he wants to at the school.

“I’ve repeatedly said I have greater goals for our program and that remains unchanged,” Izzo said. “Tops on that list is becoming one of just seven schools with three or more NCAA championships.”

Winningest Coach

Izzo has a 364-146 record with the Spartans and in November surpassed Jud Heathcote as the East Lansing-based school’s winningest basketball coach. In the NCAA tournament, his 75 percent win rate ranks third among active coaches with at least 10 games.

Cleveland offered Izzo, who turned down the chance to coach the Atlanta Hawks a decade ago, $30 million over five years, the Associated Press reported. The Cavaliers’ next option may be former Nets and New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott, AP said, though Scott may be interested in moving to the Los Angeles Lakers if Phil Jackson retires, it said.

The Spartans were the only team to make six Final Four appearances between 1999 and 2010, and the fourth squad to accomplish the feat in any 12-year span.

Izzo began his coaching career at Northern Michigan in 1979 after playing guard for the school from 1973-77. He joined the Michigan State coaching staff 27 seasons ago.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net.

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