By choosing David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be going in a new and interesting direction at the head coaching position. Not just for them, but the entire NBA: While he is an American-Israel basketball coach, he has never worked in the United States, which makes it quite a gamble for an organization trying badly to get out of the pit they’ve fallen into these past four years.
According to sources the Cavs preferred Blatt over Mark Price and Tyronn Lue, who seemed to be the other two finalists for the position. Blatt, as a player, spent his college days at Princeton under Pete Carril. He has been an assistant or head coach in Europe, mostly in Israel, for the last 21 years. He has won the Euroleague as a head coach once, last season with Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He has league championships in Israel and Italy, but his biggest achievement might be leading Russia to a European championship in 2007 and the bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
Blatt is 55, recently announcing that he’ll be leaving Maccabi Tel-Aviv and European basketball in order to pursue his dream of becoming a coach or even an assistant in the NBA. However, knowing he has a cushion to fall on, he was open to only one assistant job: Working under Steve Kerr at Golden State. Kerr was willing to hire Blatt if the opportunity with the Cavaliers would have worked out.
Blatt has something of a long=time relationship with general manager David Griffin, but that might be true to say about a number of GMs around the league. Blatt, as many European coaches do, spends quite a lot of time scouting NBA summer leagues for players to recruit for their teams in Europe.
Despite all of his accomplishments in Israel, Italy and Russia, things will be different in the United States. Some consider Blatt to be something of a college-style coach, but he is also used to being with the best team and the most resources, at least in Israel basketball. Asserting his position and authority over NBA players might be a little different, and possibly the most difficult part of his new job.