Cleveland Cavaliers go international, hire David Blatt to be next head coach

June 20, 2014

In an out-of-the-box move the Cleveland Cavaliers hope will return them to the playoffs, the franchise has named David Blatt as the team’s new head coach.  Although Blatt is an American, much of his professional coaching and playing experience occurred in Europe.

Other outlets have reported that Blatt signed a three-year deal worth about $10 million, with a fourth-year team option.

“David is a great basketball coach and a special person.  His abilities to communicate, to build relationships with his players and to foster winning environments at several stops throughout Europe and across the highest levels of International competition speaks for itself.  He brings unbridled passion, energy and creativity to his craft. These qualities have enabled David to reach a level of success that is truly unique,” said Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin. “I have watched David’s work for many years. He has an uncanny ability to adapt his system to maximize the talents of his teams year after year. That is why I am very confident he will make a smooth transition to the NBA.  There is a great opportunity to accelerate the progress of moving our team and franchise to the higher level of play we all believe we are capable of achieving."

With the talent at the center position dropping off league-wide in recent years, and with the no-hand check defensive rules allowing for easier guard penetration, many offenses, including that of the current NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, have incorporated a more international drive-and-kick, three-point shot style of offensive attack.  Given Blatt's overseas experience, he figures to be quite familiar with such offensive schemes.

Blatt, 55, most recently coached perennial Euroleague championship contender Maccabi Tel Aviv, where his team finished with a 54-18 record this season, winning the Israel League, Israeli Cup, and the Euroleague Championship. During his six years as head coach (2001-03 & 2010-2014), Blatt led the team to six Israeli Cup Championships and five Israeli League Championships. Over the past four seasons, Blatt’s teams went 225-55, (.804 winning percentage) including a team-best 70-13 record in 2011-12.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to come to Cleveland and lead the Cavaliers as their head coach. After spending a great deal of time discussing the organization, the team and the head coach’s role with David Griffin, I feel strongly about my fit for the job and this team's potential. This is an opportune time to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. We are going to work extremely hard to achieve the kind of results we all expect and know are possible,” said Blatt.

Fortunately for Blatt, the cupboard isn't all bare, as the Cavs have a young star at point guard in Kyrie Irving and the number one pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft.

Blatt played professionally in Europe from 1981-93, mostly in the Israeli League. After retiring from playing in 1993 with Maccabi Hadera, Blatt built a successful 20-year coaching career overseas, including head coaching stints in Israel, Greece, Russia and Turkey.  In 1996, he was named Israeli League Coach of the Year, the first of four times he would receive the award throughout his career (1996, 2002, 2011 and 2014).

A member of the gold medal winning USA National team in 1981, Blatt played point guard at Princeton University under Basketball Hall of Famer, Pete Carrill.

Blatt also spent six years as head coach of the Russian National Team, where in 2007, he guided Russia to a FIBA European Championship over then reigning World Champion Spain in Madrid. During the 2012 London Olympics, he led Russia to the bronze medal, the only Russian basketball medal since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The Boston native has led teams to championships in the FIBA EuroChallenge (2005), Italian League (2006), Italian Cup (2007) and Adriatic League (2012) and was the Russian Super League Coach of the Year in 2005 (Dynamo Saint Petersburg).

By Staff of and news services

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