Izzo Stays at MSU

The past two weeks in the Lansing area have been fun to watch as Tom Izzo, MSU’s beloved basketball coach, was wavering between moving to the NBA to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers or stay put at MSU. People put up thousands of signs saying “We love (heart) Izzo” in the yards on the streets he might take going to work. Every night, Izzo was the lead story on the sports section of the news, if not the lead story. There was footage of seeing his face through the window of a private jet as he flew to Cleveland, video tributes, and endless repeats of an interview with a national sports columnist pleading for Izzo not to leave.

During Monday’s Board meeting, John Armelagos from the University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council (UMPNC) would occasionally check his phone and report “Izzo still undecided.” The entire town of East Lansing was holding its breath.

So now Izzo has decided to stay with MSU and a huge sigh of relief is being felt everywhere. You forget how much of a presence he has become. You walk into the Pizza House restaurant in East Lansing, and he’s depicted coaching in a mural on the wall. He does a lot of charity work. He and his family are an integral part of this area.

I remember watching this last trip to the Final Four and hearing national sportscasters talk about MSU. They didn’t have high hopes that MSU would be in the Final Four but one of them said, “You can’t discount Tom Izzo, though. You just never know what he’s going to pull out during the games.” MSU has gone to the Final Four so many times recently that it’s almost routine – put out the flags, dress the town in green and white and settle in for the ride.

The most interesting thing about this entire process of considering a move was that during that entire time LeBron James, who is becoming a free agent on July 1, never talked to Izzo. One of the main reasons Izzo was considering Cleveland was the opportunity to coach James and James never even spoke with him, although The Washington Post reported that Izzo had spoke with “people in his camp.”

I am no sports expert but that just seems rude. I understand that James may not stay with Cleveland but to not even have a dialogue with the man that might become his coach, the person who will direct him, seems unprofessional. If I were Izzo, I’d be thinking, “How am I supposed to deal with this guy who doesn’t even return my calls?” One thing about being coach at MSU – everybody knows who’s in charge!

In some ways, this is no different than a hospital structure. Nurses complain and sometimes the constructive criticism gets up the ladder and is effectively answered and sometimes it’s ignored. Contract negotiations sometimes go quite smoothly as both parties negotiate and other times they disintegrate into a morass of emotion and frustration.

I think Izzo is happy with his decision and East Lansing is delirious with joy. But I think he would have felt better if he’d actually been able to analyze the future with more information from James.

It pays for us all to communicate effectively when we’re making decisions, whether it’s with a co-worker, management or a star basketball player.

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