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3-on-3: Tom Izzo, Pistons head coach?


Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1.  USA Today’s Sam Amick reports that Tom Gores will chase Michigan State coach Tom Izzo this summer to fill the Pistons head-coaching void. What positives could Izzo bring to Detroit?

Dan Feldman: Izzo has successfully designed and implemented extremely effective offensive and defensive systems at Michigan State. Even if those schemes won’t translate directly to the NBA, I have a reasonably high amount of faith in Izzo’s basketball acuity. His challenge with the Pistons would be different, but he’s shown he can achieve positive results when faced with similar challenges. There’s nobody in the world who has done precisely what the next Pistons coach must do, but Izzo has succeeded in a similar area.

Patrick Hayes: First and foremost, his offensive and defensive systems will work in the NBA. Particularly if you look at what MSU is running on offense this year, making great use of stretch bigs Adreian Payne and Kenny Kaminski, variations of that offense are clearly similar to what NBA teams run. He’s also adaptable to sometimes strange-fitting personnel. For example, he’s had successful teams that feature solid pass-first point guards (think Mateen Cleaves era), teams that make it work with shoot-first point guards (think Kalin Lucas or Keith Appling era) and teams that basically run their offense through a forward (think Draymond Green era). There are some successful college coaches that run systems that you can see would have no chance at working at the NBA level (Rick Pitino wanting to run a full-court press for an entire game, for example), but Izzo is one of the handful of college coaches out there whose system wouldn’t be a big question if he landed with a team with decent personnel.

Brady Fredericksen: He’d bring accountability. The Pistons haven’t had a coach that commands respect and has any clue what the heck is going on since Larry Brown. The Pistons are a rudderless ship as a whole, but if they can find a coach who has a clue and vision and knows how to get the wheels rolling in the right direction,that’s all a rebuilding team needs. The best thing that’d come with Izzo coaching the Pistons is that every Josh Smith 3-pointer would lead to a benching. Every. Single. One.

2. Conversely, what are some negatives that come with Izzo if he were to be the Pistons coach?

Dan Feldman: The key traits Izzo possess — being passionate, demanding and authoritative — definitely work for a college coach. He can’t be such a hardliner in the NBA. There’s no reason to believe Izzo can’t adjust — except that so few college coaches have successfully made the transition. And that’s where the biggest negative lies: opportunity cost. Luring Izzo to the Pistons would cost a lot of money, money that might be enough to get George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy or Nate McMillan. If you’re going to spend that much, where not go for a proven NBA coach? In terms of candidates below that tier, I like Izzo as much as any NBA assistant or less-successful retread. But he’d cost a lot more than those guys.

Patrick Hayes: We know Izzo can coax effort out of college players, and we know largely how he does it … he’s a tad, shall we say, high strung on the sidelines. That temperament isn’t going to work with NBA players in general, but particularly for a Pistons team that has become quite good at tuning out all styles of coaches over the last five years. Izzo is smart enough to know that, and I assume he’d work to reel in some of his more micro-managing tendencies if he took the Pistons job, but until he proves he’s capable of doing that, it’s legitimate to wonder how NBA players would respond to his occasional and public ass-chewings.

Brady Fredericksen: Patrick nailed it on the head, I don’t know how Izzo’s personality works in the NBA. Can you imagine him trying to coach Smith? His head would literally turn red as a strawberry before exploding. Oh, and you thought teaching Appling to be a good point guard over the years was hard, Tom? Well, let me introduce you to Brandon Jennings. Izzo is the quintessential college coach. He makes a difference in player’s lives and that’s great in college, it’s just at the NBA level guys don’t want or need that. Izzo’s hair-on-fire style works in college, but that isn’t going to work with NBA guys. They’ll tune out the noise real quick.

3. With all of that said, if you had to put a percentage chance on this, how likely is it that Izzo actually takes the Pistons job?

Dan Feldman: 15 percent. I wouldn’t call any potential coach more likely than the field, but if I had to pick one name, it’s Izzo — only because I believe Gores likes him. If the next general manager has a strong preference, that could swing everything. I don’t know when next season’s general manager will be in place, but I know Gores will be there.

Patrick Hayes: It’s still relatively low (I’ll say 3-5 percent range), but the Pistons do have a few things working in their favor. They have a franchise player in place in Andre Drummond. They have an owner willing to aggressively spend (sometimes to his own detriment) to quickly make the team competitive. They are Izzo’s home-state team and Tom Gores is a Michigan State alum. And, perhaps most importantly, Izzo is in the midst of what has been a challenging season. The team is losing seniors Payne and Keith Appling, they are likely losing Gary Harris (a potential lottery pick if he declares) and there’s even a chance that junior Branden Dawson could bolt if he keeps up his strong late-season play and MSU’s tourney run continues. That is a ton of talent to replace and MSU doesn’t have a strong recruiting class coming in next season. I believe Izzo that he is committed to staying in East Lansing, but I also believe he’ll always be intrigued by the NBA. If there was a time to jump ship at MSU, this would be a good time, since the program could be going through a transition phase next year.

Brady Fredericksen: Zero. I honestly think his flirtation with the Cavaliers a few years ago was the last chance. That summer seemed to not only take a toll on him, but also Michigan State. The Spartans were full of veteran players, starting the season ranked second in the nation, but the team absolutely bottomed out, finished 19-15 and barely made the NCAA tournament before being bounced by UCLA. I get that he’s striking out on the one-and-done recruits, but it just doesn’t make sense. I think he’d jump at the opportunity to coach a good NBA team, but the chances he’s had with Atlanta, Cleveland and now apparently Detroit can’t be that appealing.