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The coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv added a Euroleague title on Sunday to his already illustrious trophy case, and basketball analysts, journalists and executives agree he is NBA material.
"They were outgunned at every position except coach," one executive told the RealGM website after Blatt's team upset Real Madrid 98-86 in overtime. "Blatt belongs in the NBA."
Blatt, who was born in Boston and played for Princeton in college, started coaching in Israel in 1993, but did not draw international attention until he took over Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2001. After claiming both the Premier League and State Cup titles in 2002 and 2003, he was forced to take a step back for the return of Pini Gershon and settle for assistant coach. He has since leapfrogged Gershon in prestige and honors.
Dynamo St. Petersburg hired him in 2004, and he was named Russian Super League Coach of the Year that season. He moved over to Treviso in 2006, winning the Italian League championship in 2006 and the Italian Cup in 2007. Meanwhile, he doubled as head coach of Russia, winning gold in 2007 as well.
Yet this Euroleague run is acknowledged as perhaps his most brilliant, yielding the most out of a Maccabi roster that generated one of the lowest of expectations in recent memory.
And the rest of the basketball world is taking notice.
Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com told Noah Colov of CineSport on Monday that he heard the Utah Jazz are interested and the New York Knicks could be interested. "No one expected Maccabi to win the Euroleague Final Four and it was a tremendous comeback against CSKA Moscow. They didn't lead that game until the final five seconds. And then they put up 25 points in overtime against a great, great, Real Madrid team with four NBA caliber players." Sheridan added, "He keeps winning everywhere he goes. At a certain point this American ex-pat is going to come back, and that point might have gotten sped up with Maccabi's win" Sunday.
"If they look at his game tapes they will see he is a marvelous tactician," said Sheridan to explain why the NBA would be interested in a Euroleague coach. "He knows how to get the ball into the wrong guy's hands for the other team."
Sheridan is not alone in his enthusiasm. The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Blatt as a candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves' coaching position. Flip Saunders, the Wolves president, said he wants a "CEO" with experience, according to the Star Tribune, and "vowed he'd look in many places, including Europe." Blatt is deemed the most notable option in Europe.
As for Blatt, the European champion told USA Today just hours after the final via e-mail that he is "very interested" in serving as a head coach in the NBA. "No doubt in my mind I could do the job," he said.