Basketball / Blatt: At war and peace in Russia
Israel's newly named national team coach David Blatt has become somewhat of a celebrity in Russia - where he trades his wares at club level in Europe's richest league for Dynamo St. Petersburg.
Israel's newly named national team coach David Blatt has become somewhat of a celebrity in Russia - where he trades his wares at club level in Europe's richest league for Dynamo St. Petersburg - attracting attention not only in the sports pages, but in the news and even in fashion columns.
However, as far as basketball goes, things are a little more complicated.
Blatt, who receives a $500,000-a-season salary at St. Petersburg, commands an $8 million budget, and while in the European League his record is perfect, with his team being a favorite for the title, in domestic play, a run of defeats has seen Dynamo slip to seventh place with an 8-7 record.
Blatt's team plays in a similar style to Pini Gershon's Maccabi Tel Aviv and scores 88.6 points a game, but also concedes 86.8 points. Blatt's big problem is that in the Russian league he has to have two Russian players on the court at all times and that leaves him with a bench too short to fight for one of the top places.
Blatt's position is not yet under threat, but Dynamo's temperamental president Vladimir Rodionov is far from happy with the way the team has been playing and with the way it has, on several occasions, thrown away the lead in the money time.
Dynamo had a chance to hand CSKA Moscow its first defeat in all competition this season, but dropped a 10-point advantage in the closing minutes.
"Sometimes one gets the impression that Dynamo runs too fast and that David Blatt doesn't know when to stop and ease down the pace," says Alexander Bezitzni of Sport Express. "Blatt may be the best coach in the league in terms of preparing for games, but his short bench affects the final product. I think David Bluthenthal's decision to leave the club was a real blow below the belt for Blatt. But with a real center, Dynamo will be able to fight for fourth or fifth place."
Last week, Dynamo lost an important game against Unics Kazan, after leading, once again, by 10 points. Kazan coach Stanislav Eremin, a former coach of the Russian national team, is against the work of foreign coaches in the Russian league and couldn't resist a swipe at Blatt when he said after the game there are only two good coaches in Russia "myself and Rodionov".
While his position is stable for the moment, if Dynamo continues its slide down the Superleague table, Blatt could find himself coaching Israel full time.