East Lansing, Mich. — Rarely has Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo been tripped up answering a question.
Then again, Izzo has never been asked about his interest in a football job at MSU.
The leftfield possibility, discussed by reporters on an Internet blog last week, gained legs Saturday night. That was when a Lansing television station reported Izzo was being considered as a candidate for the head football coaching position created by John L. Smith's firing earlier this month.
Izzo said Monday he didn't think he was a candidate for the job, but his statements during his news conference did little to negate the idea that he might be interested. Just a tiny bit.
"I think it was farfetched when it started," Izzo said of the discussion. "I think there's some very good friends of mine that would ... I don't think it was said or done for a pie-in-the-sky type thing ... I don't think it was uh ... um ..."
Five seconds passed.
"You've never seen me at a loss for words, have you?"
The drama that has surrounded past coaching searches at MSU has often bordered on absurd. At most schools, discussion of a basketball coach's candidacy for football coach would be ludicrous.
Not in East Lansing, where Izzo is the most popular figure on campus. And not when Izzo, an avowed lover of the sport, makes statements like: "If somebody asked me, 'Do you have an interest in football?' Yeah, I have an interest in football. 'Would you have an interest in a football job?' I'd have to say no, but probably deep down, I'd have to say, 'Yeah, I would.'
"Would I leave Michigan State basketball for football right now? No, I've got some business I want to finish. Someday, when I'm real old, would I be (Steve) Mariucci's assistant somewhere? You're damn right I would."
Izzo does have some football experience. He said he was offered football scholarships out of high school to some small colleges and was called about a position at Cal State Fullerton when he was 26, a period when longtime friend Mariucci served as an assistant.
"They were looking for a D-back coach, and they probably had no money, so I actually was contacted on it," he said.
Izzo also recognized that another reason his name has come up publicly - although not necessarily among the members of the official search committee - is because of the success his basketball squad has achieved.
Joel Ferguson, vice chairman of MSU's Board of Trustees, laughed at the idea of Izzo's candidacy, which WLAJ-TV personality Hondo Carpenter reported Saturday.
"If I had someone as creative as Hondo to get people to watch and talk about a joke, I might not have sold the station," said Ferguson, who once owned the ABC affiliate.
The rumored Izzo candidacy likely will end up as nothing more than a curious footnote to MSU's latest football coaching search.
"I'm honored to say that I was a 'thought-of' guy," Izzo said. "Maybe it's a compliment that people want the coach that comes here - which I have all the feeling in the world that we're going to get a great coach - to be like ours."