Was Tom Izzo offered Stan Van Gundy's job before it was Stan Van Gundy's job?
That's the rumor put forth as fact by Jerry Zgoda for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who wrote: "Izzo was offered the same five-year, $35 million offer to coach and run the Pistons that Van Gundy eventually accepted last week." No source, no attribution, but also no hedging: this was clearly framed as fact, even if it was presented as a parenthetical aside in a larger article about the Timberwolves' coaching search. (Update: I meant to link this earlier, but ESPN's Brian Windhorst intimated the same in his interview with Matt Dery last week.)
Whether it's true or not, be happy the rumor exists, because it lit a fire with someone in the know to leak more information about the Pistons' coaching search. Both Vinnie Goodwill of the Detroit News and Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press are citing their own unnamed source who admits that Izzo -- along 25+ other names, including Michigan's John Beilen and UConn's Kevin Ollie -- were on the list of candidates presented to the Pistons by Korn Ferry, the headhunting firm the team hired to help with the search. But the source is emphatic that neither Izzo, nor anyone else other than Van Gundy, was offered the job.
And let me say this: Ownership has went above what's necessary to indicate no offer was ever made to Izzo. Will leave it at that.— Vincent Ellis (@Vincent_Ellis56) May 18, 2014
Gores did personally interview one other candidate, Goodwill reports:
"Pistons owner Tom Gores did acknowledge he talked in person to one other candidate, but it’s unlikely it would’ve been Izzo. Steve Kerr, who wound up taking the Golden State coaching job, seems to have been the more plausible candidate in Platinum Equity’s eyes.
He was endorsed for the Pistons’ job last summer by Phil Jackson, who was brought in to consult the team with that coaching search, so the team probably kicked the tires considered how much they valued Jackson’s counsel.
Unlike Van Gundy, Kerry already has front office experience: he served as general manager of the Phoenix Suns for three seasons from 2007-10, making bold moves to acquire (and subsequently trade) Shaquille O'Neal. His teams had a different head coach every year but still managed to average 51 wins a year under his stewardship. Kerr lacks head coaching experience of his own, though, and it's not hard to imagine that was a significant red flag for Gores, whose franchise has used five head coaches in six years.
Vince Ellis revealed more information about how Detroit's search was structured:
Multiple sources described a Pistons process that broke down candidates into three tiers — with the top tier reserved for so-called “super coaches” Gores would consider allowing complete organizational control.
It isn’t clear what tier was reserved for Izzo and Beilein. Van Gundy was in the top tier.
The complete list of candidates included 35-40 people, and while we don't know everybody on it, both Ellis and Goodwill leaked some of the high profile names:
- Michigan State's Tom Izzo
- Michigan's John Beilein
- Connecticut's Kevin Ollie
- Florida's Billy Donovan
- Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg
- Steve Kerr
- George Karl
- Lionel Hollins
One notable omission from the list that Ellis notes was Kentucky's John Calipari. As for the GM search, Goodwill offered more "proof" Van Gundy was the pick early in the process:
"It appears the Pistons had Van Gundy pegged early for both roles, considering they didn’t even ask NBA teams for permission to interview three hot candidates for general manager -- Scott Perry (Orlando), Troy Weaver (Oklahoma City) and Michael Zarren (Boston)."
That said, is it out of the question that the Pistons still seek permission? Van Gundy may rule the front office, but he's still looking for a GM to work underneath him. Stay tuned.
Now your thoughts.