As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue their search for a new head coach, many familiar names have been linked to the team. Whether they’re former head coaches like Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins, and Alvin Gentry, or former players turned assistant coaches such as Adrian Griffin and Tyronn Lue, all of these men are familiar to NBA fans in one way or another. However, there may be on other candidate for the position who does not have strong ties to the NBA, Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach David Blatt.
So who is David Blatt? Well, Right Down Euclid has been researching some information on the mystery man, and found out several things that could encourage and excite Cavalier fans.
He Has Had Success Wherever He Goes.
After a college career playing point guard for Pete Carril at Princeton, Blatt was a member of the U.S. team that won a gold medal in the 1981 Maccabiah games. He then began a twelve year playing career in Israel’s super league. After retiring in 1993, Blatt found his true calling as a basketball coach. Beginning his career coaching the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Galil Elyon, Blatt has been coaching for twenty years, and has had only one losing season each in Domestic and Euroleague play in sixteen seasons as a head coach. Blatt is a three-time Israeli League Coach of the Year, and has led his teams to four Israeli League Championships and five Israeli Cup Championships. Blatt has had great success outside of the Israeli League as well. Blatt has been the head coach for the Israeli and Russian National Teams, and was named Russian Super League Coach of the Year in 2005. He also led his teams to championships in the Adriatic League, Italian League, Italian Cup, FIBA EuroChallenge, and led the Russian National Team to the Bronze Medal during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Most recently, Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset win over CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague Semifinals before defeating Real Madrid in overtime to win the Euroleague Championship of May 18. The tweet below from ESPN’s Marc Stein sums up how important Blatt was to that win.
One admring exec on @MaccabiElectra triumph in Euroleague: “They were outgunned at every position except coach. Blatt belongs in the NBA”
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 19, 2014
He Can Coach Both Sides of the Ball.
While that may not seem like a big deal, Cavalier fans who have watched Mike Brown emphasize defense while all but ignoring offense (or others who have seen Mike D’Antoni do the opposite) understand the importance of being able to coach both sides of the ball well. . Widely known as an offensive genius who runs a fast-paced and aggressive offense, Blatt was also credited for building the team defense Maccabi Tel Aviv used while during its run to multiple Israeli League Championships under legendary Israeli Coach Pini Gershon and later Blatt himself after he served as Gershon’s assistant at several different spots. Part of Blatt’s strength as a coach is also said to be his ability to adjust his schemes on both sides of the ball to the strengths and weaknesses of the players of his team, a trait that often separates the great coaches from the good ones.
He Builds Strong Rapports With His Players.
Besides his duties as coach, Blatt often served as a recruiter for his teams and his former players often speak of him with respect and reverence. Former Cavalier and EuroLeague legend Anthony Parker has called Blatt his “favorite coach” and “one of the top basketball coaches in the world”. Brendan Bowers of Stepien Rules shared a conversation he had with former Ohio State Star Scoonie Penn in which he spoke glowingly of Blatt who he played for in 2007 with the Turkish team Efes Pilsen. University Heights Native and former Maccabi player Tamir Goodman recently spoke about his faith in Blatt as a coach for the Cleveland Jewish News. Brooklyn Nets forward and former Russian National Team member Andrei Kirilenko is said to have compared Blatt favorably to no less of a coach than Phil Jackson, and Pau Gasol thinks that Blatt could be a successful NBA coach in the right situation. Blatt does have a connection to the Cavaliers as he coached swingman Sergey Karasev during his time leading the Russian National Team, but does that make them the right situation?
So Where Do We Go From Here?
Blatt has long been rumored to come over to the NBA. He has been open in his interest in coaching at the highest level and even now is being pursued by the Golden State Warriors, among other teams, for a position as an assistant coach on their staff. So far though, the Cavaliers are the only team rumored to have contacted Blatt regarding a head coaching position. Could David Blatt be the answer to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coaching search? In a league where teams are finding their new head coaches from a greater variety of backgrounds than ever before, now may be the perfect time to bring one of Europe’s truly great coaches to the NBA.