David Blatt may be one of the more highly regarded and incredibly successful non-NBA coaches in the world, but he's still not exactly a household name for fans of professional basketball in the United States.
That's about to change.
Two teams have already expressed interest in hiring the Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach, and each potential location makes a lot of sense. One offers him the luxury of being groomed by an experienced NBA guy, while the other puts him in position to make immediate contributions to a championship-contending squad.
That first opportunity would come from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As reported by ESPN1500.com's Darren Wolfson and Nate Sandell, Flip Saunders is looking at Blatt as a potential hire for his bench. The Associated Press revealed that Saunders is moving from the head office to the sidelines, once more via Wolfson and Sandell, and he's already trying to build his staff.
But Saunders will have to compete with the Golden State Warriors, as made clear by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski: "Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is pursuing a powerful coaching partnership with one of the world's best offensive minds, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, league sources told Yahoo Sports."
There are far worse jobs available when trying to break into the Association. Blatt has two fantastic options opening up for him, but which is best?
On top of that, who is this guy?
Who is David Blatt?
The 55-year-old has almost always been involved in competitive basketball, from the time he ran the point for Princeton during his collegiate days, to his professional exploits in the Israeli Basketball Super League, to his abundance of coaching experience.
Blatt's playing career finished in 1993, and he almost immediately found himself back on a bench, coaching for Hapoel Galil Elyon. He would continue to bounce between teams in Israel, Russia, Italy, Turkey and Greece over the next two decades, dabbling in international competition all the while.
And throughout his coaching career, he's continuously enjoyed quite a bit of success.
As the head coach for Russia, he won a gold medal in the 2007 FIBA EuroBasket, earned a bronze medal at the most recent Summer Olympics and completely turned around that national program. While coaching Israel, he's won five Israeli Cups, four Israeli League championships and been named Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
How's that for a resume?
But arguably his greatest accomplishment—or at least the greatest story—came this very season.
"Yet this Euroleague run is acknowledged as perhaps his most brilliant," explained Haaretz.com, "yielding the most out of a Maccabi roster that generated one of the lowest of expectations in recent memory."
According to Igor Petrinovic of Euroleague.net, Blatt's Maccabi outfit was down 15 points late in the third quarter of a Euroleague semifinal game against CSKA Moscow, but it cut the lead to 10 points heading into the final period and completed a dramatic comeback with 5.5 seconds remaining in the contest.
"I thought we had a chance. I never felt that we couldn’t win that game," Blatt said after the game, via Euroleague.net. "We’ve done this before, maybe not against such a formidable opponent like CSKA. But no, I didn’t think it was over and I didn’t hear the fat lady singing."
Maccabi would go on to beat Real Madrid for the title, thanks in large part to a 25-point outburst in overtime, and it was the latest point on Blatt's extensive resume.
How has he done this? Offense, offense, offense.
Blatt's team led the Israeli BSL in points per game (83.06) during the 2013-14 campaign, per RealGM.com. Efficient shooting ruled the day, as the 49.8 field-goal percentage was the No. 1 mark as well.
It's the third year in a row that Maccabi has paced the league in both categories.
Wojnarowski wasn't kidding when he called Blatt, "one of the world's best offensive minds." And it's not just the Yahoo reporter.
Here's NBC Sports' Kurt Helin:
You would be hard pressed to find a coach more respected as an offensive innovator than David Blatt.
He’s not a name known to the common fan, but the American-born coach just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the EuroLeague title, plus he is the Russian national team coach (bronze medal winners at the London Olympics). He is a guy other coaches study, particularly his offense and transition. There have been a number of teams looking to bring him over, he has been looking for the right spot.
And here's another testament from Wojnarowski's report:
As one major college coach who has studied Blatt's offense this spring told Yahoo Sports recently, "I am not sure there is anyone in the U.S. with the kind of creative efficiency or ability to change constantly like David Blatt has. He utilizes what his players do as well as anyone I've ever watched."
If you'd like to try finding a coach that garners more respect from literally everyone who talks about him, good luck. You'll need it.
No one is anything but effusive when it comes to Blatt, especially with regards to his offensive creativity. And that's why it feels like a safe assumption that he'll make a relatively easy transition across the pond.
But with which team?
The Case for Golden State
Under Mark Jackson's supervision, the Warriors were much more of a defensive team than an offensive one.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Golden State scored 107.5 points per 100 possessions (No. 12 in the NBA) while holding opponents to only 102.6 over the same span (No. 4). It's pretty obvious where the improvement needs to occur, especially because so much of the roster is still going to be in place for the 2014-15 campaign.
And make no mistake about it. The Dubs absolutely have the offensive tools necessary to run opponents off the court.
The shooting tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is unbelievable, but let's not just forget about Andre Iguodala and David Lee. Plus, if Blatt could focus on getting the second unit to mesh and avoid giving up leads due to scoring droughts, he'd practically be a folk hero in the Bay Area.
The bench was that bad last year.
"The chance to transform Golden State's deeply talented offensive roster could become a springboard into a head coaching job elsewhere, and that holds appeal to Blatt," reports Wojnarowski.
If his offensive creativity is all it's cracked up to be, it won't matter who's on the bench. He'll be able to create a novelty lineup that centers around Harrison Barnes and Marreese Speights. And once he's proven himself, it's onto bigger and better things.
That's ultimately the goal, after all.
Blatt isn't just hoping to become a career assistant coach. Not after earning so much fame in Europe.
Kerr, who was only just hired by the Warriors and is still on the right side of 50, isn't going anywhere for quite some time. Assuming he works out, of course. But there will be plenty of vacancies elsewhere, and showcasing his offensive talents while working with Golden State would be quite good for Blatt's future.
On top of that, he could continue building that aforementioned resume.
Unlike Minnesota, Golden State is already in position to compete for a title. Sure, the Warriors were knocked out of the NBA postseason during the first round when the Los Angeles Clippers got the best of them, but the Western Conference was so loaded with talent that it felt like anything could happen.
Plus, there's no telling who'd have won that series had Andrew Bogut been healthy and in the lineup.
Potential rings and the possibility of a future gig in the most important chair on the sideline? It's easy to see the appeal in the Bay Area.
The Case for Minnesota
There's not much hope of a championship in Minnesota. Not any time soon, at least.
Even if Kevin Love somehow suits up for the 'Wolves during the 2014-15 season, which seems increasingly unlikely, this team doesn't have a particularly impressive ceiling. There aren't enough secondary and tertiary scorers to support the UCLA product who lines up at the 4, and the rim protection is severely lacking.
Ultimately, it's a flawed team, one that requires a rebuild at some point in the near future unless Ricky Rubio suddenly breaks out or Shabazz Muhammad becomes the player he was expected to be when first coming out of high school.
Frankly, both those things might have to happen, and even that won't do the trick if Love leaves.
So, if there's not much hope of earning jewelry at the end of the season, what's the appeal for Blatt?
It's all about upward mobility. If he signs on with Golden State, he's hoping that another organization notices his talent from afar and eventually offers him a gig as a head coach. If he joins the Timberwolves, the path could be much more direct.
"But what is Saunders' long-term plan?" ask Wolfson and Sandell before continuing with the following:
Saunders may already be shaping up plans for his eventual successor. The thought is that Saunders could be at the helm for one or two seasons before handing off the head coaching duties to an assistant on his staff.
Would Blatt be guaranteed to get that job? Absolutely not.
But he'd be one of the top candidates, especially if the transition from Maccabi to Minnesota is a seamless one. Ultimately, Saunders would be handing the head coaching duties to the candidate he feels has done the best job, and it's hard not to have confidence in the man with the most stellar resume.
As Wolfson and Sandell reveal, Sam Mitchell and Chauncey Billups have also come up as potential assistant coaches, but neither has done nearly as much in the world of professional basketball—as coaches, not players—as Blatt has.
So, which is the better destination for the Israeli signal-caller? Which is the best fit?
The answer all depends on what he wants, which is still completely unknown. That's a bit of poetic justice, considering his abilities as an NBA coach are still shrouded in mystery as well.
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