David Blatt, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach officially introduced as the new head of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers put a lot of minds at ease at Wednesday's press conference, according to local and national press in the United States.
Blatt brought an air of confidence as well as humor that has already won over analysts about Cleveland's prospects.
"Make no mistake," he said. "I have won everywhere I have been from Maccabi through Benetton through the Russian national team and back through Maccabi. And I plan on doing the same here and hope to have all of your help."
Cleveland's new coach found a humorous way to admit he won't replicate the winning percentage he enjoyed with Maccabi in the Israeli league. "I hope I bring the philosophy of Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is never lose a game," he declared. "Not one or there's going to be a countrywide investigation." Then, he added to the amusement of the reporters in the room, "I hope the manager didn't hear me say that."
Blatt, 55, brings a proven track record, replete with Israeli, Russian and European titles. He also owns the distinction of being the first European head coach to take the helm of an NBA squad.
"I've been coaching for over 20 years in Europe I played for another 12 years professionally. It's a great honor to represent the fine European coaches that I've worked with, and coached against. It's a great honor to have received the benefit of coaching great players, many of whom are now in the NBA and many others who could be. "
The Massachusetts native added: "I know that I'm carrying a torch. I hope like hell that I don't drop it. I don't plan on it."
Blatt acknowledged differences between the European and American styles of the game, yet rejected any idea that the adjustment would hinder his path to success.
"The game is not so different as people think it is," he said. "It's a little bit longer here. Perhaps the level of athleticism and speed all around the court is different. But it's not like playing baseball and soccer. It's still the same game. I've coached enough international games, participated in enough events that include NBA players and NBA teams to know that when you play the game right it doesn't really make a difference where you play it."
Blatt said he is aware the Cavaliers are in far from an ideal position.
"Like many teams we have many areas for improvement that we must address," he said. "We have a new system to incorporate and our team tactic and learning curve in terms of implementing a new style team.
When asked about what philosophy he planned to bring to the Cavalier players, he referred to Drew Kennedy, a former player of his who drove in from Chicago for the press conference.
"He'll tell you the same thing I'm going to tell you right now," he said. "It's always been the same: Play hard, play together play to win and have fun. There's not a lot I can tell you tactically right now until I sit down with the players and get inside their heads, till I see the final roster is gonna be."
Blatt described himself as the kind of coach who learns "from what you have" rather than a "systematic" coach.
"I won't come in and run the Princeton offense just because I played for the great Pete Carril at Princeton," Blatt said. "I'm going to see what I have. I'm going to decide together with the coaching staff what the best way for us to play is. And most importantly, figure out how we're going to win the most games."
At the end of the day, Blatt does not plan to favor play on one side of the court or the other. "I'm not an offensive or defensive coach," he said. "I'm a basketball coach."
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