David Blatt Breaks Barriers by Taking on Cleveland Cavaliers’ Top Job

Outgoing coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv eschewed an attractive assistant-coaching position with the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors.

Jerry Mittleman
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.Credit: Reuters
Jerry Mittleman

Another barrier in the globalization of the NBA has been broken: A man with citizenship on the other side of the ocean, Israeli David Blatt, has been tapped as a head coach — for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The rest of the world has already been doing its bit in the NBA: This month the San Antonio Spurs’ UN-like roster routed the defending-champion Miami Heat in the finals.

U.S.-born Blatt, who last month led Macabi Tel Aviv to a Euroleague title, accepted the Cleveland job after seriously considering the Golden State Warriors’ offer to be their top assistant coach. The Warriors’ offer was a good one: a winning team with a young and talented roster, not to mention an affable and intelligent coach in Steve Kerr.

As an assistant, Blatt could have adjusted to the pressure-packed NBA more gradually. Instead, he’ll try to get the Cavs into the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left four years ago.

In an interview with Haaretz this month, Blatt said joining a good organization was a priority. But Cleveland will be more than a challenge. The Cavs are considered a dysfunctional franchise with a sometimes disruptive owner, one making his third head-coaching change in four years.

A bright spot in Cleveland is its first pick in this Thursday’s NBA draft. The Cavs were expected to pick Joel Embiid, a center from Cameroon who has been compared to Hakeem Olajuwon. But now that Embiid is sidelined for four to six months with a stress fracture of the foot, Cleveland will look elsewhere.

The Cavs already boast a budding superstar point guard, Kyrie Irving. Their greatest need appears to be improving on-court organization and instilling a winning attitude, skills Blatt has displayed in abundance in his long career in Europe and Israel.

Blatt’s biggest adjustment may be having to deal with NBA-sized egos. And too bad he doesn’t get to coach Omri Casspi, the first Israeli in the NBA, who left Cleveland last year. In any case, Blatt is known as an excellent communicator and teacher who gets the best out of his players and teams.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op