Friday night, Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans take the center stage as they face off with 1-seed UVA at Madison Square Garden with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line. But as is usually the case around this time of year, Izzo has had to answer as many questions about his coaching future as he has about his current team. One tidbit he gave the guys over at CBS Sports has the college sports world speculating that Izzo once almost took a job with another Sweet 16 program playing this week.
Here's the quote in question - Izzo, while speaking about rumors regarding his name being thrown around for the Detroit Pistons job, mentioned that he had another big opportunity in the past half-decade. This one was in the college ranks.
"There was a job a couple a years ago, we were playing to go to the Final Four, it was a college job," he said. "I was kind of being forced to make a decision that night, and it was one of the big jobs, I'll just say that to you. I mean, I just, you know, there's no way I was going to do that. Even if I wanted to I wasn't going to jeopardize my team. This is part of my family. I haven't been a five-year guy. I've been a 30-year guy. Because of that I have the ability to tell them things, and I think I've earned the right to look at things. I mean five, six million dollars, that's kind of a lot of money, right?"
His statement has fans trying to connect the dots. Even if you open the time frame up to the last decade, Izzo only coached three teams to the Elite Eight or further - those years are 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Next question - how many "big jobs" are there in college basketball? And how many programs have the ability to pay five or six million dollars per year for a coach? UNC? Roy Williams since 2003. Duke? Coach K, no way. Kansas? Bill Self since 2003. Louisville? Rick Pitino since 2001. Indiana? Tom Crean took the job in 2008.
How about Kentucky? UK hired John Calipari to replace Billy Gillispie on March 31st, 2009 for a deal worth $4.33 million per year over eight years, plus incentives. Izzo's Spartans won their Elite Eight matchup over Louisville on March 29th, 2009 and eventually finished as runner-up to UNC in the title game. Plus, there were rumors of Izzo considering the Kentucky job back in 2009 (though the same could be said about a number of top coaches in the game at the time).
Again, this is purely speculation, but it's certainly food for thought. Izzo currently makes close to $4 million per year, so it's not as-if his bank account is suffering. But it's clear that whatever time crunch the program offering Izzo found itself in has greatly shaped the college basketball landscape in the past five years.