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Michigan State's Tom Izzo would have already accepted the Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching job, but his final pause remains a willingness to preside over a rebuilding process if LeBron James(notes) leaves, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
From owner Dan Gilbert's selling, as well as his conversations with outside sources, Izzo has a "level of comfort" that the Cavaliers are strong contenders to keep James, sources say. Still, Izzo will make a final decision on Cleveland's $30 million contract offer this weekend – and he'll make it without an ability to know James' plans.
Nevertheless, Izzo returned from his Thursday visit to Cleveland impressed with the Cavaliers' top basketball executives, general manager Chris Grant and assistant GM Lance Blanks, sources say. Izzo has listened to the Cavaliers' rebuilding scenarios for the team should James leave, including possible sign-and-trade scenarios that could keep the franchise from completely bottoming out.
Izzo is expected to pursue a coaching staff that would include former New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank and former Michigan State and Cavaliers guard Eric Snow(notes). Cleveland has kept former coach Mike Brown's staff under contract, and management has encouraged Izzo to consider those assistants, including Mike Malone and Chris Jent, for his own staff.
This isn't the first time Izzo has discussed and negotiated NBA contracts, and each time he's always decided to stay in college. Izzo is 55 and his associates believe he's reached a crossroads in deciding whether the NBA would be a good lifestyle change, freeing him of the seedy college recruiting grind. One thing's for sure, sources say: Izzo believes he can make the adjustment to the NBA and can incorporate changes in his own style and disposition to reflect a very different kind of player and season.
Many have rightly asked whether Izzo's physical, aggressive style of defense would translate to the NBA, but as one NBA coach who knows Izzo well said, "If you go watch a Scott Skiles practice or one of the Van Gundys', it won't look much different than what Tom is going to do. If he gets good players, I think he will win in the NBA. And if he doesn't, well…"
That's the question Izzo is asking himself: What happens if he doesn't get good players in Cleveland? What happens if LeBron James leaves?