After an exhaustive search that has seen them interview nearly every viable candidate and even extend a massive offer to University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, the Cleveland Cavaliers last night offered their head coaching position to David Blatt.
Blatt would be the third coach in the last three years for the Cavaliers, who fired Mike Brown in May barely a year after signing him to a five-year, $20 million deal. It will be Blatt’s first job in the NBA, but certainly not his first foray into coaching.
Blatt announced just over a week ago that he was leaving his former team (Maccabi Tel Aviv) in order to pursue his dream of coaching in the NBA. He is one of the most successful European coaches in history, having guided his upstart Maccabi Tel Aviv team to the 2013-14 Euroleague title, the Israeli Cup in 2013, and both the Israeli Cup and the Israeli League in 2012. He also has had great success internationally, leading Spain to a gold medal at the 2007 FIBA EuroBasket tournament and Russia to a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
While some may worry about a foreign coach’s ability to connect with players, Blatt actually spent his formative years in America. After growing up in a suburb of Boston, he went on to Princeton where he played and learned under legendary coach Pete Carril. Indeed, Blatt’s teams run a form of Carril’s Princeton Offense, and Carill said of Cleveland’s decision to hire his former captain “He’s got an analytical mind, sees things, loves the game, loves to teach the game. I wish him a lot of luck because he’s very good.”
Blatt will certainly have his work cut out for him with a young Cleveland team that finished last season at a disappointing 33-49 despite owner Dan Gilbert’s preseason optimism and mid-season trades for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes. For better or for worse, it’s a young roster that may have talent, but it’s mostly very raw and—to this point—undeveloped.
What they do have is a young star in Kyrie Irving, ample cap room to make a run at someone like LeBron James, and the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft (likely to be Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins). The framework is there for Blatt to succeed right from the get-go, especially considering they play in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.
There will undoubtedly be a steep learning curve, however. The NBA game and European game are significantly different, and there are many adjustments both on and off the court that Blatt will need to make in order to accommodate those changes. However, with his track record and reputation, it sounds like Cleveland has made an inspired choice.
UPDATE (1:45 PM):
According to Yahoo Sport’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the deal is done:
David Blatt has agreed to a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $20 million with the Cavaliers, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 20, 2014
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