Cavs owner won't discuss Izzo reports
That was the powerful message from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who refused to comment Tuesday on reports he has offered a massive contract to Michigan State's Tom Izzo and adamantly denied that James, the two-time MVP now on free agency's doorstep, has been running Cleveland's franchise.
Gilbert added that James will not be consulted during the team's coaching search.
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Speaking at a news conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts to introduce new general manager Chris Grant, Gilbert refuted reports that James has had input on past hires and trades, the firing of coach Mike Brown and GM Danny Ferry's recent departure.
"The concept that LeBron James has been involved in any way, shape or form with firing our head coach, involved in the transition to general manager Chris Grant and will be involved in future coaching decisions and hires is totally, 100 percent and patently false," Gilbert said. "It's unfair to him. It's unfair to the franchise.
"He is a basketball player and a great one and his interests are aligned with our interests, but this concept that this franchise has been handed to a player who is running it and making the decisions is just completely and totally false. He'll tell you that and Chris will tell you that and I'll tell you that. The truth is the truth."
Grant confirmed the club has had contact with Izzo and "a number" of other coaching candidates but would not provide any details. The team has reached out to ESPN analyst and former New Orleans coach Byron Scott and ESPN/ABC analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy. The Cavaliers have spoken with a representative of Scott in the past 24 hours, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. It is not clear how strongly Van Gundy, who has given indications that he may not want to coach next season, is considering the job.
While Izzo, Scott and Van Gundy are at the top of the Cavs' list, the team has a handful of other candidates on its radar as well, according to league sources.
Grant said there is no timetable to hire a new coach.
"I want to find the right guy, and I want to find the right fit," said Grant, who was promoted after Ferry resigned last Friday to end a wildly successful five-year run. "That could be in a week and that could be in a month and a half. We're going to make the decisions based on who that right person is and the best fit for our team."
Izzo's mentor at Michigan State, former Spartans coach Jud Heathcote, said Izzo discussed the possibility of coaching James with him by phone on Monday, according to The Detroit News. Heathcote said much of their 30-minute talk centered on whether James will stay with the Cavaliers if Izzo comes to Cleveland.
Heathcote's gut feeling is that without a commitment from James, Izzo is staying put at Michigan State, according to the report.
"I honestly think he'll look at this," Heathcote said, according to the report. "But unless he can get some commitment from LeBron James, the job isn't that good. I think a lot hinges on what [Izzo] feels about LeBron's future. I think he's seriously considering it. He's going to look at it like he does on all things but he's got an awfully good situation at Michigan State, too."
Some members of the Cavaliers' brain trust are not sold on Izzo and would prefer to consider candidates with NBA experience before settling on the Spartans' head coach.
At the news conference Tuesday, Gilbert and Grant did all they could to sidestep repeated questions about their interest in Izzo, who has been approached by NBA teams in the past -- but perhaps not this tenaciously.
"At the appropriate time, we'll have an announcement," Grant said, "and we'll have the next guy that's going to lead us out there on the court."
A person familiar with Cleveland's pursuit of Izzo told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Gilbert, a Michigan State graduate, and the coach have discussed terms of a possible contract that would pay Izzo up to $6 million a year for four or five seasons. Use of one of Gilbert's jets has not been discussed.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were supposed to be confidential.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer first reported Monday that Gilbert and Izzo talked about the framework of a long-term deal, worth about $6 million a season for up to five years. Izzo makes more than $3 million a season and is under contract through 2016.
While the Cavaliers have discussed the parameters of a contract with Izzo, a source with knowledge of the talks told Broussard the reported five-year, $30 million offer is "a bit inflated" and that the job is not yet Izzo's to turn down.
The Cavaliers fired Brown less than two weeks following their second-round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics. Brown, named the NBA's coach of the year in 2009, led the Cavs to 127 regular-season wins the past two seasons but couldn't get James and the team back to the NBA Finals.
Brown's firing was quickly followed by Ferry's decision not to return. The upheaval has given the impression the Cavs are in chaos just as James enters free agency. Gilbert, though, said all the decisions were based on his desire to bring a championship to Cleveland, and that while the moves may be risky, they were not done without deep consideration and analysis.
"If you took the other approach that you do nothing and nothing happened, I think the criticism would be just as loud," Gilbert said. "It was our view that the benefit outweighed the risk of making some significant changes here to get us over the hump and get us to where we need to be.
"This is not about franchise value. This is not about the payroll we spent or didn't spend. This is driven solely on the motivational factor of delivering a championship to this city. Period. We believe this is LeBron's goal, it's Chris Grant's goal, it'll be our head coach's goal. We're just going to keep going until we get there."
Grant said the team intends to stay in close contact with James, but would not reveal specifics about plans to land the superstar or any free agents.
While not revealing potential coaching names, Grant said the uncertainty of James' future with Cleveland has not been viewed negatively by candidates. He said the lure of coaching one of the league's top franchises -- with or without James -- is enticing.
"People look at this organization and have seen what it's done over the last five years and they're really impressed," he said. "They see games on TV, they see what the business side has done, they see the sellouts. People look at this and say, 'Wow, it's a desirable place and I'd like to be there.'"
Izzo has had little to say about the Cavs' courtship. During a radio interview on Monday night, he described some of the reports as "farfetched."
"I'm the Michigan State coach, and that's what I'm going to do right now," he said. "Who knows what the future brings? But it sure isn't at all like it's maybe being speculated."
According to the latest version of Izzo's deal, he has to pay the school $500,000 within 30 days of terminating his employment if he takes another job.
A message was left Tuesday by the AP for Izzo, who led the Spartans to the Final Four this year for the sixth time in 12 seasons.
Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and The Associated Press was used in this report.