Now Izzo can focus on yet another Final Four

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Al Goldis / AP

Sometimes a “once in a lifetime” opportunity isn’t enough. Ask Tom Izzo.

Michigan State’s coach officially passed on taking the Cleveland Cavaliers job Tuesday night (and maybe coaching LeBron James) because his current one is just that good. The Spartans are among college basketball’s elite because Izzo made them that way. Tough to leave a place like that.

It’s like former MSU star Charlie Bell told the AP: “Izzo is Michigan State basketball.”

Can’t argue with that. Sure, the Cavs represented a monster payday and perhaps the last chance Izzo would have to see if he could cut in the NBA, but how could he leave East Lansing? Eammon Brennan summed it up perfectly:

Izzo is a legend in SpartanLand. He can coach at Michigan State forever. He has enough talent returning to (not to mention arriving in) East Lansing to reach his seventh Final Four and win a national title in 2010-11. His program is a well-oiled machine. His legacy is intact. He’s happy. The media loves him. Fans love him more … Many fan bases with the Spartans’ history of success would have told their coach to buzz off if he didn’t like his job. But MSU fans owe so much of that success to Izzo that he could have taken months on his decision without losing support or tarnishing his legacy. Now that’s popularity.

Why mess with a good thing?

No kidding. It’s enough to overlook an annoying side story from Tuesday’s press conference (this column raised the ire of Izzo and athletic director Mark Hollis) and turn out attention to next season when the Spartans will be on the shortlist of title contenders.

Michigan State loses one starter from last season’s 28-9 squad (Raymar Morgan) that’s primed to make its third straight Final Four. A sweet recruiting class bolsters MSU’s chances even more.

No wonder Izzo’s excited to return. He’s going for his own slice of history.

“We have a great team returning next year with incredibly high goals,” Izzo said. “I’ve repeatedly said I have greater goals for our program and that remains unchanged. Tops on that list is becoming one of just seven schools with three or more NCAA championships. I’m also driven to continue to raise the perception of our program to an elite level.”

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops.