Current Job: Head Coach, Michigan State University (1995-present)
- Assistant Coach, Michigan State University (1983-1995)
- Assistant Coach, Northern Michigan University (1979-1983)
The Pistons are dealing with a fanbase that has grown apathetic and frustrated and in need of quickly infusing interest into the team. The most meaningful way to do that, of course, is to build a competitive team. That takes time though, and there’s a chance that, after back-to-back 50-loss seasons, little money to spend in free agency, few assets that could yield impact players in trades and a late lottery pick in what is considered a weak draft, not to mention a potential lockout that could limit player transactions this offseason, the Pistons might not return to respectability for at least another season.
So if that option is off the table? Just hire a big-name coach.
Tom Izzo is the biggest name in basketball in the state of Michigan. He’s flirted with the NBA a couple of times, coming closest to leaving last season when Cleveland tried to woo him away from East Lansing. Izzo would bring instant national interest in the Pistons that wouldn’t exist otherwise. He’d sell some tickets, even if the team isn’t very good. And, as a star and strong personality, there’s a good chance he’d have a much longer leash to turn the team around than any other coach the Pistons could hire.
This … this would never work. Izzo would cost a lot of money. His rah-rah, tough-love approach would never work with highly paid professionals. It’s unclear whether he could install and oversee an offense that would yield results at the professional level. The hallmark of Izzo’s teams is always rebounding, and the Pistons have only a couple players right now who rebound well.
If the Pistons lose a lot – and there’s a good chance they would with the roster uncertainty – it would damage Izzo’s reputation in a state where he’s treated like a God. Leaving East Lansing would cause major hurt among a fanbase that adores him and the Pistons job would keep him in the same state with a number of fans who may not forgive him for leaving.
Izzo seems to be the unlikeliest of unlikely candidates for this job, but Tom Gores’ Michigan State connections, the Pistons’ need for a marketable identity and Izzo’s past flirtations with the NBA all make him a fun "what if?" candidate. I really hope it doesn’t happen. Izzo may, indeed, coach in the NBA someday. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him for wanting to try. But doing it in his home state would add even more pressure to succeed and, if things went poorly, it would potentially tarnish the legacy he’s created at the college level in Michigan.
Thank God it would never happen.