Discussing Tom Izzo to the Cavs and Introducing Illini Tale of the Tape

I want to introduce a new section of Writing Illini, but before I do, let’s talk about the major Big Ten basketball news of the day.

According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered Michigan State Head Basketball Coach Tom Izzo a five-year deal worth $30 million ($6 million a year).

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis is denying that an offer has been made, but did admit that the Cavs are interested in Izzo, who has led the Spartans to six Final Fours in the last 11 seasons.

Apparently willing to do anything and everything to keep free agent Lebron James in Cleveland, Cavaliers’ owner and Michigan State alum Dan Gilbert (of Quicken Loans’ fame) is trying to hit a homerun in snagging Izzo away from the college game.

NBA teams have been attempting to lure Izzo out of East Lansing for more than 10 years, with the Atlanta Hawks having Izzo turn them down in the summer of 2000. The Hawks then turned to Illinois coach Lon Kruger, who shockingly left Champaign for the riches of the NBA game.

Kruger wouldn’t last long in Atlanta, eventually getting fired by the Hawks and then landing in New York as an assistant coach before Isaiah Thomas sent him packing during his own house cleaning.

Back to Izzo, it’s highly unlikely that he will ever leave Michigan State despite the temptations of the NBA game, including the Cavs doubling his annual salary of $3 million.

Izzo is not like most coaches – he is wise enough to realize that he has a good thing going.

Arguably the best coach in the nation, Izzo is already a living legend at Michigan State, where his loyalty lies to the school and his players.

Especially important, Izzo has a really strong chance next season of reaching the Final Four for the third straight season (something the Spartans also accomplished in 1999, 2000 and 2001).

The Spartans are going to be stacked in 2010-2011, with Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Draymond Green, Chris Allen, Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious returning, and a top-10 nationally-ranked freshman class arriving.

If it comes to leading his senior and junior-laden team to a national championship after near misses the last two seasons (something he did with Mateen Cleaves and “The Flintstones” back in 2000) or possibly coaching the immensely talented but immature James, I think it’s clear what Izzo will do, regardless of how much money is thrown his way.

Izzo was made to lead young men, not coddle superstars.

He’s a perfect fit for college basketball, and the Big Ten’s greatest asset in basketball.

His teams are the prototype that all Big Ten teams should inspire to be – tough, smart and battle-tested.

Izzo has built a program in his spitting image, preferring substance over flashiness.

Every player Izzo recruits has a purpose, and he has an inspiring faith in his players that other coaches fail to develop.

If you suit up for Michigan State, you better be ready to play, because Izzo will go to you if necessary.

He schedules his teams to take a beating early in the season (even if it means dropping a few contests) all for the purpose of imparting lessons and making them tougher for March.

And when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, there’s no better coach in terms of preparation, in-game adjustments and squeezing everything out of his players.

From the perspective of an Illinois fan, it means a little more to beat an Izzo-led Michigan State team than it does other conference programs.

In fact, it’s hard to feel anything but respect and even admiration for Izzo, who has always been good to Illinois off the court.

During the 2005 Final Four, there was Izzo telling Michigan State fans waiting for the team outside the Edward Jones Dome to get inside and cheer on the Illini against Louisville.

When Eric Gordon turned his back on Illinois for Indiana, Izzo was one of the first Big Ten coaches to provide support for Bruce Weber and call out Kelvin Sampson.

Following an Illinois loss at the Breslin Center in the 2008-2009, Izzo offered Weber the highest praise, calling him the best defensive coach in the country.

Izzo is a rarity in modern day collegiate coaching, one who can maintain friendships with rival coaches and not let a win-at-all-costs mentality seep into every single aspect of his life.

Just as the late John Wooden was meant for the college game, so was Izzo.

That’s why at the end of the day, he’ll remain at Michigan State, likely until he retires.

Here’s to Izzo’s Spartans and Weber’s Illini battling again in 2010-2011.

Now to the new section of Writing Illini.

Called Tale of the Tape, I am going to watch nearly every Illini game from last season and provide some commentary on those games, with the purpose of noting areas where both our players and coaches could improve upon coming into 2010-2011.

I hope to use this section as a springboard for a summer school section in which I critique the games of returning Illini players and provide some analysis on areas of their game that need improvement (I could probably do this for most Illini players, but feel it’s good to give these games another look, sans the emotion that came with originally watching them).

This should also feel my void with the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals to end soon, leaving me with only baseball (gasp!) to watch at nights in the summer.

I basically recorded every game last season – with the exception of the first four games (which were not televised in the Chicago-land area) and the disastrous weekend in Las Vegas (which was streamed online).

Channeling my inner Tom Thibodeau, that means a lot of film review in the next couple of weeks.

Here are the games that I will be doing:

● Presbyterian vs. Illinois (from November 21, 2009);

● Wofford vs. Illinois (from 11/24/2009);

● Illinois vs. Clemson (from 12/2/2009);

● Boise State vs. Illinois (from 12/5/2009);

● Vanderbilt vs. Illinois (from 12/8/2009);

● Western Michigan vs. Illinois (from 12/13/2009);

● Illinois vs. Georgia (from 12/19/2009);

● Illinois vs. Missouri (from 12/23/2009);

● Northwestern vs. Illinois (from 12/30/2009);

● Gonzaga vs. Illinois (from January 2, 2010);

● Iowa vs. Illinois (from January 5, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Indiana (from January 9, 2010);

● Penn State vs. Illinois (from January 12, 2009);

● Illinois vs. Michigan State (from January 16, 2010);

● Purdue vs. Illinois (from January 19, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Northwestern (from January 23, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Penn State (from January 27, 2010);

● Indiana vs. Illinois (from January 30, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Iowa (from February 3, 2010);

● Michigan State vs. Illinois (from February 6, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Wisconsin (from February 9, 2010);

● Ohio State vs. Illinois (from February 14, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Purdue (from February 20, 2010);

● Michigan vs. Illinois (from February 23, 2010);

● Minnesota vs. Illinois (from February 27, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Ohio State (from March 2, 2010);

● Wisconsin vs. Illinois (from March 7, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Wisconsin (from March 12, 2010);

● Illinois vs. Ohio State (from March 13, 2010)

● Illinois vs. Stony Brook (from March 17, 2010);

● Kent State vs. Illinois (from March 22, 2010); and

● Dayton vs. Illinois (from March 24, 2010.

Well, that’s 32 games and a lot of freaking work.

Better get to it, with Presbyterian-Illinois coming tomorrow.

Until then.

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