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Highlights of Tom Izzo press conference

By Marla Ridenour Published: June 15, 2010

Highlights of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's press conference, which was televised by the Big Ten Network:
The first day I was talked about on this job I heard somebody on one of the local radio stations say, 'Why would he leave now, he's just got what he's always wanted. A football coach and his AD all on the same page, all together, all pointing in the same direction.' Little did I know 9 days later that that would be one of many things that played a big part in my decision.
Two great friends spent a lot of nights with me talking about things and I started feeling like I wanted to be a Coach K or a Jim Boeheim or a Bo Schembechler or Paterno and Bowden and Smith and now Osborne, who's in our league, guys who kind of stood the test of time, who were tempted by different things but decided their heart was where it is.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime decision for me and it was at a point in time in my life that I looked at it and said, 'How many more offers do you get, how many more opportunities do you get?' I know a lot of people would say 'Why would you want to leave?"' I didn't. I didn't want to leave. President Simon and (AD) Mark Hollis said it best, when you have a decision like that, I talked to my wife, I was going to talk to my daughter but she was in finals, I thought that was a bad idea. I'll admit if you want to be mad at somebody, (son) Steven thought playing one-on-one with LeBron James would be a good time every day, so be mad at him.
But for me, I decided this decision would put me here for life or not. If I left, I'd leave. If not, I'm not going through all of this any more. As some of your own (media) people said, 'The Wild, Wild West,' it was way wackier than 'The Wild, Wild West.' So I knew at the beginning that whatever decision I made it was a decision for life, for me and Lupe and Steven and (daughter) Raquel.
What helped me, amazing couple of things helped me. I said all along, 'What's the best part of the job? What keeps you here?" I always said, 'The guys who come back.' The number of former players who called me immediately when it broke that there was an opportunity was unbelievable. From NBA coaches to partial owners in the NBA who are Michigan State guys, to every player that I think ever played in the NBA from Michigan State called and gave me their input. Their input was always, 'Coach, you've got to take a look. You can't feel guilty.'
When I got on the plane last Thursday, I was driving there and Magic (Johnson) called. I talked to Steve Smith and Scott Skiles a lot that morning and Magic called and said, 'Tom, you sound like you feel guilty.' 'I said, 'Well, it's been a little different around here.' I know what players go through. I've watched some players turn down opportunities to leave early. I said, 'I do feel a little guilty.' He said, 'Let me tell you what you should do, Tom. You should go get Miss Lupe and Steven and Raquel and you should put a smile from ear to ear, jump in the car and drive to the airport and jump on a plane and go earn something that it took you 27 years to accomplish the opportunity to have.' It was all that work by these guys. You don't really think it was all me. The two Final Fours the last few years, you don't hear my name on any of those jobs, it was the Billy Donovans and Jay Wrights and everybody's new up-and-coming. They did for me what I tell them we can do for them, 'Winning makes people excited about you.'
The fact that these players helped us win a lot of games, get to Final Fours, gave me an opportunity. There's financial things, there's the dream of coaching in the NBA if there is a dream. The opportunity to coach one of the greatest players who will ever play the game, and yet ironically I'm at a school that already has the greatest player who ever played the game in Magic. So I felt honored, I went down there.
I must say this about Dan Gilbert, one of the classiest guys I've ever met, and everybody has a different opinion of people. The problem is when they're in your home state, you've always got different opinions in your home state. The first night I talked to him, he was more concerned about what the people of Michigan State would say because he's an alum. I met Dan Gilbert twice before this but we weren't friends, I'd never talked to him longer than 25 seconds. But he's kind of what I believe in, he's the blue-collar guy who started out a little bit dirt poor and built his own company. He did it the Michigan State way. He worked very hard. He was going through a difficult time, losing his general manager and potentially his star player. But the class he showed me and what he did makes me proud, not because of him as the man, but because of him as the Michigan State Spartan.
I appreciated all the support I got from the community and it was embarrassing. but it was greatly appreciated. I appreciated all the emails and the letters. I said all along I want to try to build the best program in America. The best program in America is built in many different aspects -- having the greatest academic reputation, having the greatest facilities, having the greatest teams with consistency, social life, role models, community service people, players that do a lot of different things to have an impact.  If there's one thing most of my guys told me, it was, 'Are you sure you can have the same impact.' You know what I figured out? I could. Everybody's about winning, everybody's about being successful. A lot of people need direction on how to get there. A lot of people need someone to push them to get there. Not everybody's self-motivated. Dan Gilbert saw in me something that he believed was right for that same goal and mission.
Only my wife and I can appreciate what we went through during those nine days. But I learned a lesson from Jud Heathcoat that I use every day. Everybody's got a boss, everybody's got someone to answer to. I think there's still opportunities that everybody deserves to look at. In the 15 years I've been at Michigan State, I seriously looked at two opportunities. I hope that our fans will understand that I didn't do it as some said for publicity. If I held it against somebody who looked at other opportunities, I'm mad at every one of these (players) because they put me through the ringer in recruiting. The good thing is when you've got people strong enough to give you that opportunity, when you make a decision, you feel better about it. I am going to be a lifer and damn proud of it. The only thing left for me, we've built a pretty good basketball program. Mark Dantonio has been very important to me and he's building a very good football program. I'm a program guy. I've tried to live my whole life that I care about other people as much as I do myself and I care about helping people. Now my goal is to make this the best athletic department in the country and thank God I've got some good friends who are going to help me do that.
Q: During your decision-making process were you able to talk to LeBron?
A: No, I did not talk to LeBron. I talked to enough people in his camp that I felt very comfortable with ... he, too, has a very tough decision. I felt comfortable with some of the things I needed to know. I can appreciate what he's got to go through, too. I guess I hope in my own way that this is a stay-at-home month. I'm staying at home, I kind of hope he stays at home. And maybe everybody wins. I did not speak to him directly. A lot indirectly.
Q: Was there any point in the past 9 days that you said, 'Maybe I should take a chance on the NBA.' Were you leaning towards taking the job?
A: There were so many unfactual rumors. I did what my media asked me to do, I kept my mouth shut and I looked at it. There were days when it looked like a great opportunity. There were days when I didn't think I could leave these guys. I've got a championship I think we can win.  Did I ever get to the point where I said I was going? No, I did not. I never got to that  point.
Q: Was there an ah-hah moment that clinched the decision?
A: Some of the ah-hah moments were some of the pro guys who called back and gave me input on what they thought. Maybe my last ah-hah moment when Lupe and I were talking about it. When I asked my daughter how she'd feel and she said, 'Gosh, Dad, I don't want to leave. What about all our boys?' I said, 'Raquel, you're as good at making friends as anybody. You have incredible people skills. You relate to everybody.' She said, 'I know, Dad, but if you went there, they'd be my friend because of who you are. Here they're my friend because of the people we've built.'
Q: If you had won a national championship the last couple years, would this decision been different?
A:  Maybe a couple years ago winning one more would have been enough. That damn Krzyzewski guy just keeps winning enough and because of that, it keeps motivating me to get to more. I like some of the things we've accomplished. But as I tell my players, you're judged on the last guy standing. It's nice to go to Final Fours, that's not how you're remembered. I still have some serious dreams of what I'd like to accomplish. If I'd have accomplished one more last year, maybe I'd have been closer. My goal has always been to put Michigan State University in an elite spot. And I think three national championships puts it in a top 10 list. That's getting pretty elite. It might have mattered some, I can't answer that because it didn't happen. But it won't matter from here on because I've got enough to try to chase him because he's going to keep going and he's going to keep winning. It's a pretty classy guy to chase. I don't mind that chase.
Q: When did you make this decision?
A: We (he and his wife) talked two mornings ago, we laid there and discussed it. I know this went on for nine days. But I've got a family and I've got a daughter and she's in finals Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of last week. I told them immediately, 'I'm not talking to my family until that's over.' Her freshman year of high school, I thought that was very important. So really I had no real contract offer, what I said was true on that. I had some parameters. But until you go down there and see the facility and feel like you're part of it and get your family involved and look at it. We got back late Thursday night. We had Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. By Friday I knew I was in trouble when I came to work. By Monday I knew there was a lot of things clouding the issue and people saying things about our recruits and people calling our recruits.
Q: When you retire, will you regret not chasing your NBA dream?
A: If I didn't look, I'd always wonder. The first time I looked, I was a rookie. I didn't know anything about the NBA. This time I looked a little more diligently, I looked to see things I really didn't know. I don't walk around with an agent telling me everything, I had to do my investigative work and try to figure out some things that was a little more difficult. Someone from Cleveland said, 'This is kind of a situation that's unprecedented. How many times is there a brand new GM, new coach and one of the top players in the world is in free agency?' That doesn't happen very often so there were a lot of different questions. I think the opportunity they offered me, I could have gone to the NBA. That's not the same as going, but thank God I work for some people who gave me the opportunity to look. When I looked, I decided what my dad said to me when I was 5 or 6 years old, 'The grass isn't always greener on the other side.' The grass is pretty green here, and that's not meant in a pun way. We've got a good team, we've got a chance to do some incredible things and we've had a heckuva recruiting class. The next one is going to get even better because some of you motivated me. I don't think I'll ever said I didn't try the NBA. I think it would have been a shame to say, 'I never got a chance to look at it. '
Q: Why did you look at this one?
A: Dan Gilbert was a big reason. The first time I talked to him, he motivated me, he excited me.  I thought he had the same goals and passion. He didn't just talk it, he walked it. I felt something there, I really did. I had talked to some of those people when they drafted Shannon Brown, I'd been down to their facility. It was a unique situation. It was still in the Midwest, that was important to Lupe and I, especially with our families and her family here. I think it was a legitimate chance to win an NBA championship. And there were other things that made it intriguing.
Q: Could you have made this move without assurance if LeBron would be there?
A: That was one of the key factors, 100 percent true. I had to do a little capology. I didn't understand all that. I'm trying to learn about 'em. If LeBron James would have stayed, that doesn't mean I would have been there. If I understood the cap, there were a lot of other players they could have got in there. That was not the only factor. Was it a big factor? Sure it was, he's one of the greatest players in the world. It took a little time to understand that.
You looked at it as 9 days, I looked at it as 3 or  4. It's not like it was a coin flip. Michigan State is where I want to be. I wanted to look at the process. I apologize to the Michigan State fans I must have offended. They got their money's worth and they're going to get their money's worth. I promise you I'll make it up to them.
The number one reason I'm back here is the players who left come back. When I needed those guys, I didn't call one guy first, they all called me. When Jason Richardson called one night, when Zach Randolph called it hit home. Mateen (Cleaves) and Mo Pete (Morris Peterson) they're almost part of our family. That still is the most exciting thing about this place.
(part of his summation) This week I was afforded the opportunity to maybe coach LeBron James. You know what, if somebody thinks I can do that, there's a lot of recruits out there who  may be the next LeBron James and I'm going to be looking for 'em. I'm going to coach them in the NCAA and I'm going to try to do the best job I can to help make them have the opportunity to live their dream like I've had the opportunity to here.

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