October 1, 2014

Medina
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Cavs owner denies LeBron is calling the shots

INDEPENDENCE — Tom Izzo isn’t the only person the Cavaliers have talked to about their vacant head coaching position and LeBron James isn’t being consulted about the search, let alone running the entire organization.

That was the word from owner Dan Gilbert and new general manager Chris Grant during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at Cleve­land Clinic Courts.

The duo confirmed the team has spoken with Izzo, but talked only in vague, general terms when asked if the Michigan State coach had been offered a contract.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gilbert didn’t mince words when asked about the per­ception that soon-to-be free agent superstar James is dictating everything the franchise is doing, calling that belief “totally, 100 percent, patently false.”

“The concept this franchise has been handed to a player and he’s running it is completely and totally false,” Gilbert bristled.

“LeBron James is a significant, important, (two-time league) MVP basketball player,” he added. “We believe his interests and philosophies are aligned with ours.”

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How much input the Cavaliers are getting from James in their coaching search is likely a matter of semantics — they have a pretty good idea what qualities he wants in a coach without asking him directly — but there can be no disputing the organization is doing everything in its power to entice the small forward to re-sign.

That includes pursuing the highly successful Izzo, who reportedly has been offered a five- or six-year contract that will pay him about $6 million annually.

Grant and Gilbert would not confirm that offer was made, but they also didn’t deny it.

“I want to find the right guy,” said Grant, who took over as GM when Danny Ferry resigned Friday. “I want to find the right fit. That could be in a week or it could be in a month and a half.”

Izzo, who has led Michigan State to six Final Four appearances since taking over as coach in 1995-96, also downplayed rumors he’s been offered the job during a Monday night radio interview with WILS in East Lansing.

“I’ve taken the no-commenton- all-of-it approach, which is a little bit unlike Tom Izzo,” the 55-year-old said. “But I’ve been very consistent with that. And maybe to close it up, I would just say there are so many things out there that are so farfetched right now. “I’m the Michigan State coach and that’s what I’m going to do right now. Who knows what the future brings? But it sure isn’t at all like it’s maybe being speculated.”

The Cavaliers and Izzo both have strong reasons for downplaying the rumor, but folks in Michigan are concerned enough that reporters from two Detroit newspapers were in Independence on Tuesday.

Grant and Gilbert don’t want to say they’ve offered Izzo the job and then have him turn it down, because then it will be clear to everyone their eventual hire was not their top choice.

Izzo, who with incentives earns about $3 million a year at Michigan State, can’t appear too interested in the job and then turn it down if James goes elsewhere, because that might tarnish his image in East Lansing and affect recruiting.

“Hiring the head coach is always the toughest job,” Grant said. “That’s the most important job in the organization.”

That’s disputable regarding the Cavaliers, as James’ 6-foot-8, 250-pound presence is looming everywhere.

Like Gilbert, Grant went out of his way to downplay James’ input on organizational matters, though the new GM did say the 25-year-old “knows how important he is.”

“We are not consulting him based on the coaching search or any other rumor out there,” Grant said.

Grant also said it’s “not difficult at all” to make other basketball decisions while not knowing what James is going to do, because the Cavaliers are “building the team based on winning.”

“He’s brought the organization to a great level,” Grant said of James. “Our job is to keep pushing it to another level.”

Grant added the Cavaliers “have a plan and a process in place” and are “going to follow it throughout the summer,” but he refused to go into any specifics.

Coaching criteria

Grant said he is looking for four things in the team’s next head coach: a winner, a defensive mindset, an effective communicator and a strong leader.

Gilbert, meanwhile, said he doesn’t foresee the new head coach having a dual title that gives him say in front office matters and added Grant “is running the head coaching search from top to bottom.”

It is believed Gilbert was the person who initiated talks with Izzo, and some feel the owner will have final say on the most important basketball matters.

“We work together to make the right decision,” Grant said. “It’s not (important) whether it’s my idea or Dan’s idea or the coach’s idea.”

Tip-ins

  • When asked about Cleveland’s 32-point home loss to Boston in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which featured James playing off the ball for long stretches of the decisive third period, Gilbert said, “I’m not sure what happened and I don’t know if we’ll ever know. What we can do is make sure it never happens again.” When asked if he had talked to James about that game, Gilbert said, “I don’t know if it would be productive to get into that.”
  • On Tuesday evening, Izzo’s biography on Wikipedia began with him being head coach of “the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.” The next sentence listed his tenure at Michigan State as being from 1995-2010.
  • Gilbert said Grant is operating under the contract he had as assistant GM, but added some adjustments will be made now that the 38-year-old has been promoted.

Quote of the day

“We’re not going to shortchange Cleveland, Ohio. This is not about franchise value. This is not about payroll. This is solely about delivering a championship.” — Gilbert, on his commitment to winning an NBA title.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.