CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Fitting his reputation, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert appears to be getting aggressive and serious in search of a new coach.
According to multiple sources, Gilbert has discussed the framework of a massive contract offer to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. Gilbert, a Michigan State graduate, has handled the recruitment personally and Izzo is said to be mulling the chance to jump to the NBA.
The offer is said to be worth approximately $6 million annually and would be for up to five years, much larger than the industry standard for a coach without previous NBA head coaching experience. The offer might also be loaded with potential bonuses and perks including free use of one of Gilbert's private jets.
The Plain Dealer reported that Izzo was on the team's short list when Mike Brown was fired two weeks ago. Yahoo Sports reported over the weekend that Izzo had emerged as Gilbert's top candidate after he announced a split with general manager Danny Ferry. The Lake County News Herald reported Sunday night that Izzo had been offered the job.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said today that Izzo had not been offered a contract by the Cavs. It is possible the Cavs haven't formalized an offer. But several sources indicated Gilbert stepped up his recruitment efforts over the weekend.
Several people who are friends of Izzo said that they didn't think he'd take the job without first finding out whether LeBron James would re-sign with the Cavs.
This is a position most in the NBA have taken since Brown was fired. It appears Gilbert is trying to overcome this worry by presenting such a large salary and benefits.
Izzo's base salary at Michigan State is $1.6 million with a guaranteed $1 million in bonuses per year. After leading the Spartans to their sixth Final Four in the last 12 years, Izzo hit bonuses that jacked up his pay package to more than $3 million. Gilbert, it seems, has offered to double that.
The Spartans have a strong returning team and an excellent recruiting class and may be ranked in the top 3 in preseason polls. Izzo has told people he'd like to remain at Michigan State until he won another title.
Izzo has allowed himself to be wooed in the past only to turn down the chance at large salary increases. He's rebuffed the Hawks, Raptors, Timberwolves and Pistons over the last 10 years.
Michael Reghi interviewed the publisher of spartans website and editor of campus newspaper...He had lunch with Izzo today and he had some posotive things to say about Cleveland...and him accepting the job doesn't matter what LeBron does but Izzo obviously would love to have LeBron. He said it's the closest he's ever been to leaving. Reghi said he thinks Izzo will come to Cleveland.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James may not be ready to commit to what he's doing in free agency, but he may be willing to make his opinion known on the Cavaliers' coaching search.
According to a high-level source, James would endorse the Cavs' hiring Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said last week that James is not involved in the search for a replacement for Mike Brown, but sources have indicated James approves of the highly-respected Izzo. James also said in an interview with Larry King that he doesn't want to be heavily involved with selecting his next coach.
But James "100 percent" would endorse Izzo's hiring, the source said.
Izzo, meanwhile, is still pondering the Cavs job. On Sunday, Izzo told several Michigan-based reporters via text messages that he was "still gathering" in regards to the Cavs' offer. Gathering facts and opinions, it is assumed. Perhaps even attempting to gather information from James' himself.
Lansing (Mich.) television station WLNS reported on Sunday that Izzo is waiting to speak directly with James, which the station reported had not happened as of Sunday night.
Nonetheless, James isn't believed to be giving anyone a hint to what his personal plans will be once he hits free agency on July 1. That seems to be the greatest issue Izzo is considering. Izzo has consulted numerous friends and acquaintances looking for an opinion of what James' intentions might be and what the Cavs may be able to do if they re-sign him or if they do not.
While he ponders and hopes to speak with James, though, Michigan State is trying to leverage its hometown edge. Several grassroots campaigns have been organized to appeal to Izzo to turn down the Cleveland offer.
A Web site has been formed to collect messages from fans and several groups have formed rallies and gatherings to make signs. There are now hundreds of signs supporting Izzo throughout East Lansing and the route from Izzo's home to the Breslin Center, the Spartans' arena, is littered with signs.
Izzo will likely have to drive past them on Monday when he's scheduled to host the start of a youth basketball camp that bears his name.
Though there has been an expectation that Izzo would make up his mind over the weekend, there were no indications on Sunday that Izzo planned an announcement on Monday.