Basketball / Blatt to See Russian Nationals Through London Olympics

Russia's Israeli coach confirmed yesterday that he is on the verge of signing a four-year extension to run the national team. The new contract will keep David Blatt at the helm at least until the 2012 London Olympics.

Blatt said he had worked out all the technical details of the agreement with Russian Basketball Federation officials during the past two days in Moscow, where Blatt was attending the association's annual conference. After a conversation with RBF president Sergey Chernov, Blatt told reporters: "It was the easiest negotiations of my career, really ideal."

He said he'd sign the new contract "in the near future," adding: "The timing of the signing isn't important, rather the general agreement".

The coach told local newspaper Sovietski Sport: "I presume I'll coach the Russian national team over the next four years to provide the stability needed for more than a year or two of preparations and a singular coaching style". Blatt stressed the team is going to the Beijing Olympics expecting "to win medals".

The contract itself doesn't call for a major raise and isn't expected to top $250,000 per year. In contrast, signing a long-term contract puts Blatt in position to inherit the coveted CSKA Moscow coaching job, should the 2007 Euroleague runner-up decide not to extend the current coach's contract beyond this season.

Blatt was supposed to become the first foreigner to receive the title of "honorary coach of Russia) in a special ceremony on Monday attended by Russian Sports Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov, but the ceremony was postponed because Fetisov, who wanted to award Blatt the honor personally, was forced to sit in on a meeting of Suchi, the organizing Olympic body.

Blatt recently discussed possible cooperation with the U.S. team ahead of the Beijing Olympics, he told the Russian daily Sport Express. He said: "The Americans offered to hold a joint training camp or a scrimmage, maybe even to integrate the two ideas. We're already in talks on the matter, and it's clear the meeting with the Dream Team would be an ideal preparation for the Olympics."