Michigan State people want Tom Izzo to say he isn't interested in the Cleveland Cavaliers, or anybody else. They want him to say he flirted with the NBA 10 years ago and he has been open to offers since, but now he is 55 and will be a Michigan State Spartan for life.
Izzo can't say that. Or he won't. Maybe both.
He can't say it because, if July 1 rolls around and LeBron James tells Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert that, yes, he will re-sign if Izzo is coaching the Cavs, then Izzo would have to consider it. I believe that is the only scenario under which Izzo would leave Michigan State: for an NBA team that is ready to win a championship.
Almost any college coach would take that offer, and I don't see how MSU fans could really fault Izzo if he did. (And that doesn't mean he would, either.)
But there is a more complex issue at play here: Why Izzo won't say no either now or in a month. It says something about Izzo's personality and not necessarily something good or bad, just something.
I think he loves this attention. Absolutely loves it. He loves knowing that the NBA teams might want Tom Izzo from Iron Mountain, Mich. But also, I think he loves that other people know it.
I think he wants everybody at MSU to understand that he could leave at any time. I think he gets a violent reaction to the mere notion of being taken for granted - by his administration, his fans or the media.
Hey, if you want Izzo, you get the full Izzo. That's just how life works. You get the program builder and the motivator and the game planner, the guy who believed he could create a superpower in East Lansing, Mich., when nobody else did ... but you also get the relentless competitor who always knows how much money other coaches are making. You get the guy who wants Michigan State fans and administrators to know they are lucky to have him (and, therefore, that he should give him what he wants). You get the guy who won't totally shoot down reports that the Bulls want him, that Kentucky wants him, that Oregon wants him, or (now) that the Cavaliers want him.
This is why he never totally denies interest in a job (even the Oregon job, which he never was going to seriously consider). He says he loves MSU, or, no, he hasn't been contacted. But he always leaves himself some wiggle room.
Wiggle room means he can leave, but more than that, wiggle room means people have to worry he might leave. And that gives Izzo leverage - not just contractually, but emotionally. It means MSU has to worry about pleasing him.
In the public eye, the marriage of Izzo and MSU seems simple and perfect: underdog, small-town Michigan guy and an underappreciated Michigan university. The reality is that, like most marriages, this one is a lot more complicated than people think it is.
Izzo is forever asking questions: What if the fans cheered like they used to? What if the football team won more? What if the media gave MSU more respect? You don't have to agree with his answers. Forget that - you don't even have to agree with the premise of his questions. But he asks them anyway, because in no aspect of his professional life is Tom Izzo content.
Izzo is a chronic complainer, and I can see where that might drive administrators a little crazy. The man never seems happy. But again: If you want Izzo, you get the full Izzo, and he did not bring MSU this far by being happy.
So if you think Izzo will have a moment of clarity where he says "OK, enough" and promises to be at MSU for the rest of his career ... well, I suppose that is possible. But I don't think he will say that, because I don't think he wants anybody else to fully believe it.