Fri Jun 11 12:21am EDT
If ever an image could sum up exactly how much Tom Izzo means to the Michigan State community, it might be this photo shot by student Jackie Smith during an on-campus rally in the coach's honor on Thursday night.
Yes, that's Michigan State center Derrick Nix speaking to reporters. And yes, that's a tear streaming down his cheek.
[Photos: Tom Izzo images]
Michigan State officials reportedly urged players not to attend the rally so they wouldn't have to answer questions about Izzo's dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Nix decided to go anyway. The fans supported the Spartans all season, so Nix said he felt it was his turn to support the fans.
"Nobody knows what (Izzo) is going to do, but I just want to thank all y'all," Nix told the crowd. "I'm emotional about all this. I don't want coach Izzo to leave."
About 500 fans gathered at the Magic Johnson statue outside the Breslin Center at 9 p.m. for the hastily arranged "Save Tom Izzo" rally mere hours after the coach spent the day with Cavs brass in Cleveland.
They waved signs with messages such as "Please Don't Go Izzo" or "Just Say No to Cleveland." They chanted Izzo's name and sang the alma mater. They even signed a banner thanking Izzo for a job well done and expressing hope he'd remain at Michigan State in the future.
It all might seem a little over-dramatic to fans of opposing teams, but consider what Izzo has meant to Michigan State. Not only has he led the Spartans to a ridiculous six Final Fours in 12 years, he's also done it with a touch of class and integrity that other programs have lacked.
Nobody knows whether Izzo will accept Cleveland's lucrative offer, but the fact that he flew there Thursday shows how strongly he's considering it. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Izzo met with members of the Cavs front office and listened to their plans for the future both with and without LeBron James, but left without making a decision whether to take the job or not.
As Izzo, his wife Lupe and their two kids stepped out of their charter plane at Capital City Airport in Lansing, a handful of local newspaper reporters were on the tarmac waiting for him. Izzo apologetically declined comment on the specifics of the interview in Cleveland, but told the Detroit News he hadn't reached a decision but "it's not going to be forever."
As for the 500 fans at the rally in his honor, Izzo was gracious.
"I appreciate the kids," he said. "I always have."