Tom Izzo told Dan Gilbert on draft night to take Draymond Green

DETROIT, Mich. -- On Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Quicken Loans founder and Michigan State alum Dan Gilbert and his family officially announced a $15 million donation to MSU.

While the details of how much money exactly will be spent on what weren't given, varying amounts will go to renovations for Michigan State's Breslin Center and other MSU projects; the Detroit Scholars Program and the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. It was a major gift for the university, but the highlight of the afternoon might have been when Gilbert told a story about the 2012 NBA Draft.

On draft night, Gilbert and Co. were at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Cleveland took Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick, then traded the 24th pick to Dallas.

At that time, Gilbert had been majority owner of the Cavs for seven years. Two years prior, he had tried to court Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo to come take the same title in Cleveland. Ultimately, Izzo decided to stay in East Lansing, but the two have long had a good relationship.

Never, though, had Izzo called him in the middle of the draft until that night in 2012. But the Cavs controlled two second-round picks at 33 and 34, and Izzo wanted Gilbert to know something.

"First round ends, and the phone rings," Gilbert started before describing the conversation that followed.

"Dan, Tom Izzo."

"Hey what's up, how ya doing? We're at the draft."

"Yeah, I see that, I'm watching."

Then Izzo got to what he needed to say.

"Listen to what I'm telling you," Izzo told Gilbert. "You better take this kid, Draymond Green. You've got two second-round picks. I don't tell you what to do, I don't talk much about this. I'm gonna go out on a limb. What do you have to lose, right?"

Green was an All-American, National Player of the Year and proven winner coming out of Michigan State in 2012. But at 6-foot-7, he was given the dreaded tweener label by NBA types. Too small to play in the post but not quick or athletic enough to play on the wing at the next level. Gilbert knew what everyone thought of Green, but he talked to his front office staff anyway.

"So I hang up the phone and go, 'Look, as you know, a future -- at the time -- Hall of Fame head coach just called me,'" Gilbert recalled. "'One of the most respected head coaches and just all-around guys in basketball -- and maybe even the planet -- he went on a limb and he said just take Draymond Green.'"

The Cavs did not take Draymond Green.

Instead, they shipped those two picks away to Dallas, and Green was taken by the Warriors at No. 35 overall. The rest, as they say, is history. Green has become an All-Star and one of the most valuable all-around players in the league for Golden State, winning an NBA title two years ago before blowing a 3-1 lead to Gilbert's Cavs in last year's NBA Finals.

Gilbert joked that the front office was cleared out a couple weeks after not taking Green. In reality, it was two years later, after 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett failed to pan out, that the Cavs fired general manager Chris Gant. But Gilbert still took a lesson from that 2012 phone call.

"I just learned that, when Tom Izzo calls you, you better listen and do what he says," Gilbert said.

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