Detroit Pistons Reportedly Expected to Pursue Tom Izzo as Next Coach

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 25, 2014

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Update: By Zach Buckley at 10:50 a.m. ET, March 26

If the Detroit Pistons are in fact planning on pursuing Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach made it clear that nothing has happened yet.

Perhaps perturbed about answering NBA questions while preparing for his next NCAA Tournament game, Izzo sounded off about these rumors during an interview with WDFN's Matt Shepard (via Gillian Van Stratt of

First of all, I'm upset with the media. Somebody is sitting in a basement making up stuff. It's embarrassing to me and it's embarrassing for the Detroit Pistons.

The problem is, nobody's even talked to me. I get all these things, 'I know you've talked to this person, I know you've talked to that person.' That makes it look like the Pistons have called me and said something and I've said I had no interest. Nobody has contacted me in any way, shape or form.

Now, this doesn't offer a lot of insight regarding what might happen should that contact ever be made. But it does highlight just how much would need to be done to move this from the rumor mill to the transaction log.

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Update: By Stephen Babb at 5:20 p.m. ET, March 25

Whatever the Detroit Piston's interest in Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach sounds perfectly happy with his current situation according to news services:

I've always said I'd never say never to anything because you never know what it brings. But I got so much more work to do here. I have a great president, a great AD and a football coach that I really get along [with]. So this is a pretty good place for me right now. We're in a pretty good spot. Program's in pretty good shape.

That may not constitute an absolute commitment to stick around the Spartans, but it's sure to temper speculation that Izzo is to be the Piston's savior-in-waiting.

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is back on the NBA radar, with the Detroit Pistons reportedly ready to chase the in-state legend over the summer.

Pistons owner Tom Gores, a Spartan alumnus, is "expected to go after" Izzo, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

Izzo has spent the last 19 seasons in East Lansing. He's compiled a .715 winning percentage over that stretch, making six Final Fours in the process and capturing the national championship in 2000. This season, he's back in the Sweet 16 and expected to keep rolling.

Mar 22, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Gary Harris (14) celebrates after a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the Harvard Crimson at Veterans Memorial Arena. The Spartans defeate
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It's unclear if he'd have any interest in the Pistons job—currently held by interim coach John Loyer—but this isn't the first time he's been linked to an NBA gig.

The Atlanta Hawks tried unsuccessfully to lure him to the big leagues in 2000. A decade later, he mulled over the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching job but ultimately declined their offer. The uncertainty of LeBron James' future—the same summer he bolted for the Miami Heat—reportedly impacted Izzo's decision.

He seemed to permanently close his NBA door after turning down the Cleveland offer.

"I knew at the beginning that whatever decision I made would be a decision for life," Izzo said, per The Associated Press (via ESPN). "I am going to be a lifer. This is what I'm going to be, and I'm damn proud of it."

Al Goldis/Associated Press

There's not a lot of wiggle room in those words. Of course, there are rarely such things as certainties in the world of professional sports.

If Izzo does have an interest in making the NBA leap, this summer might be the time to jump.

Two of his three top scorers are seniors (Keith Appling and Adreian Payne) and the third is a projected lottery pick (Gary Harris). The cupboard could quickly become barren, and Izzo himself said he's tired of chasing top-shelf recruits.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20:  Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo  talks to Adreian Payne #5 during their game against the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

"It's very difficult ... there are so many influential factors," he said, via Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg. "You've got to get good players, but you can't change who you are, and you've got to realize who you are."

Izzo doesn't seem like the type to abandon ship in the face of adversity, but it's tough to rule this out completely.

"I still think it’s a major longshot for him to leave, but the NBA door isn’t going to be open that much longer, and I don’t even know how much longer Izzo plans to coach, period," Patrick Hayes of wrote. "The timing and location of the job might not get much better than right now."

The roster isn't half bad, either.

Assuming the Pistons re-sign restricted-free-agent-to-be Greg Monroe, they'll have a fearsome frontcourt for the future in the Moose and sophomore Andre Drummond. Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a hoard of athletic gifts and a defensive edge.

Offseason home run hacks at Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith haven't panned out, but the team has more talent than its 26-44 record would indicate.

Is there enough talent in place to pry Izzo away from the college game? Maybe not.

But I'd be surprised if Izzo didn't find this job intriguing enough to at least entertain an offer.