David Blatt Follows His Dream; but Will the NBA Open Up to an Outsider?

For Blatt to eventually become a head coach, he would have to pass the final remaining frontier in the globalization of the NBA.

Jerry Mittleman
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Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.Credit: Reuters
Jerry Mittleman

After achieving his goals as an Israeli and European coach, David Blatt announced on Thursday night that he is leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv in order to pursue his next goal: being an NBA coach.

Since he was a kid growing up in the Boston area, Blatt told the audience at a news conference, he has always dreamed of the NBA.

It has been reported that Blatt has been offered assistant coaching positions with both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors. Last week Blatt met with the Warriors' newly appointed head coach Steve Kerr in Los Angeles International Airport, while in the States for his father's funeral.

Blatt is expected to fly to the U.S. again next week to begin exploring his options in greater depth before making a final decision. He told Ha'aretz that his considerations are very clear, and emphasized the importance of playing a significant role whenever he lands. "First of all, I want to join a good organization and also a team with a chance to win. [...] Whether as a head coach or as a top assistant I want to be allowed to really contribute the things that I can do well."

Two weeks ago, it was reported by ESPN that the Cleveland Cavaliers had contacted Blatt about their vacant head coaching position - but have not formally invited him, as of yet. But that possibility is getting more remote with each passing day as the Cavs - who already have been turned down by Kentucky University's John Calapari - find themselves without a coach only two weeks before the NBA draft. They've already interviewed candidates with far more NBA experience than Blatt, including three former NBA head coaches, including Mark Jackson - who was recently fired by Golden State despite a successful three year stint as their head coach- and Alvin Gentry. A leading candidate, Gentry has been invited for a second interview next week.

Blatt may receive additional offers now that he has left Maccabi, but at this point Golden State may be a better fit for his stated criteria. The Warriors won 51 games last season and have a talented starting five - (which includes young superstar Steph Curry) - but still have plenty of room for improvement. They have an affable, intelligent new coach in Kerr, but need to toughen up in order to get deeper into the playoffs.

Blatt's expertise in pressure defense and mental preparation could do much to benefit Minnesota, a team extremely talented on the offensive but porous on defense, who had a horrendous record in close games last season.

Flip Saunders is stepping down from the front office, and will coach the Timberwolves for the next two seasons in a caretaker role until a future head coach is appointed - so there is significant room for advancement there. But the whole franchise is sitting on a potential land mine since superstar Kevin Love has declared his intention to declare for free agency at the end of the coming season. Love's departure would probably decimate the Timberwolves and send them into an extended rebuilding process.

For Blatt to eventually become a head coach, he would have to pass the final remaining frontier in the globalization of the NBA. Although schooled in American college basketball, Blatt's entire coaching career has been overseas, and he is stylistically a European coach. Up until now, no NBA franchise has taken the plunge and put their team in the hands of a foreign coach.