Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Izzo Better Off at Home?

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

This morning I listened to a lively debate between the Mikes of the Mike (Greenberg) and Mike (Golic) in the Morning program about whether Tom Izzo should leave Michigan State University for the vacant head coach position with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

For those unfamiliar with college basketball, I provide the following brief synopsis of Izzo's career. Tom Izzo became the head coach at Michigan State in 1995. That first year the Spartans finished .500 and made it to the second round of the NIT. That year was also the only year that an Izzo coached team finished less than five games over .500. Over the course of his coaching career at Michigan State, the Spartans have: been selected to the NCAA Tournament thirteen years in a row; made the Final Four six times and have won one national championship.

As you can imagine, things are very comfortable at Michigan State as he does not appear to have Pete Carroll disease (read: spectre of NCAA sanctions) pushing him out the door.

With Izzo's coaching record, it should not be surprising that he is being pursued by various NBA teams to fill coaching vacancies. One of the teams which is reportedly vying for Izzo's services is the Cleveland Cavaliers. At the same time that the Cavaliers are chasing Izzo, they are also desperately trying to make sure that their all world player - Lebron James (affectionately known in the media as "King James" or "LBJ") does not depart via free agency in July.

During this morning's program, the Mikes debated whether it makes sense for Izzo to take the Cleveland coaching job. Mike Golic argued that the NBA is "the show" and that since Izzo has accomplished all that he could on the lower level, he should step up and make a name at the highest level of competitive basketball.

In contrast to Golic's argument, Mike Greenberg argued that Izzo should stay in Michigan. He argued that the NBA is not a better or more competitive environment and attempted to prove his point by offering to compare John Wooden's ten collegiate championships to Phil Jackson's ten NBA titles.

[Of course the argument is moot if LBJ does not return to Cleveland as the Cavaliers would be a mediocre team at best without King James].

As part of the conversation, the Mikes brought in various basketball personalities and asked what their advice would be to Tom Izzo. One of the guests (I cannot recall who) offered this advice - if Izzo is happy in Michigan State and well compensated, there is no reason to go to the NBA, even if he might make more money.

Mike Greenberg then jumped on the point and made the observation that if a person is making $40,000 per year and is offered $3 million to go to his competition, then of course he should change jobs. On the other hand, if the person is making $3 million at one job and is happy, then he should not jump to another job which pays $4 million if there is a real chance of failure and that the person will be unhappy.

The discussion reminded me of the mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:1) about who is wealthy. The mishna quotes Ben Zoma as stating - who is the wealthy one - the one who is happy with his portion. Obviously, it would be a challenge to state that someone who was unable to support his family could be happy with his lot. On the other hand, one who is beloved in his position and can comfortably support his family and seems to be "happy" should think long and hard as to whether he is wealthy and should be happy with his lot.

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