David Blatt has accepted the Cleveland Cavaliers head-coaching job after leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv in anticipation of an NBA offer, Yahoo Sports reported Friday.
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According to Yahoo Sports, Blatt agreed to a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $20 million. Blatt is the first coach to ever make the transition from the Euroleague to the NBA.
ESPN reported that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert put in the bid Thursday night. If the Cavs had not been forthcoming, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was ready to ask Blatt to be his top assistant coach.
Blatt got the nod from the Cavs over Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue. Blatt replaces Mike Brown, who only lasted one season with Cleveland.
The team's game fell off the cliff after LeBron James left in 2010 to go to the Miami Heat in search of a championship ring; he's got two so far. But the Cavs did climb their way up to third place in the Central Division this past season, winning 33 games, which is better than the 19 they won the year after LeBron left, but still only half of the 66 they won with him in 2008-9.
The team has had three No. 1 draft picks in the post-LeBron years, and Gilbert seems to have little patience with coaches who can't bring home a winner, so Blatt will be under great pressure to deliver.
He certainly did that at Maccabi Tel Aviv last month, when he led a rather mediocre team to amazing upset wins against CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid to take the Euroleague championship. Winning the cup made him a national hero; if he takes the job at Cleveland, the Cavs will inherit masses of new, Hebrew-speaking fans.
Blatt, 55, played as an undergrad at Princeton, then coached in Israel, Europe and Russia for over 30 years.