One of the most sought-after overseas NBA head coaching candidates in recent memory, David Blatt has found a home in the Association, agreeing to a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team announced on Friday.
Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer initially reported the news.
Cavs GM David Griffin spoke about the hire in the team's official statement:
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 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. I am excited that the experience, knowledge, skills and leadership David will bring to the Cavaliers is the right fit at the right time.
The release also provides Blatt's comments:
“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. “I also want to thank Dan Gilbert, Nate Forbes, Jeff Cohen, and many others within the Cavaliers front office, for their belief and confidence in me and what we can accomplish together. This is a proud day for me, personally, but I hope just the first of many more for all of us as we work towards a very bright future. I have always heard about how great of a sports town Cleveland is and have come to understand how much fans here care about the Cavaliers. This makes me feel especially excited and comfortable to join this community but above all motivates me to help deliver in a big way.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports provided contract details:
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
Cleveland's deal with David Blatt pays $3.33M annual base, with incentives that can push salary to $5M per, front office source tells Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 20, 2014
Sam Amick of USA Today added more:
Can confirm David Blatt's deal with Cavs is three years for approximately $20 million (with incentives). Fourth year team option.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 20, 2014
David Pick of Eurobasket.com has the coach's thoughts on the hire:
David Blatt confirms deal with Cavaliers. "It's done," he told me. "Couldn't be more excited. Can't wait for challenge."— David Pick (@IAmDPick) June 20, 2014
Blatt, 55, was born in Boston and played college basketball at Princeton. After carving out a professional career mostly across the pond, he opted to stay international when his coaching career commenced. Years of hard work and refining his craft later, Blatt has parlayed that unique experience into a prestigious NBA gig.
Former Princeton coach Pete Carril, who oversaw Blatt's development at the collegiate level, gave his insight to the type of style Blatt brings to the table, per Boyer:
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. He's made a name for himself on the international scene, that's for sure. ...
... He's got a brain. He see things. He's not a B.S. coach. He gives them the facts of what's going on. You can't con him that easy.
Wojnarowski initially reported that Cleveland offered Blatt the head coaching job:
Yahoo Sources: Euro coaching icon David Blatt emerges as the Cleveland Cavaliers choice to become head coach. http://t.co/mtE5YKX0Fl— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 19, 2014
BasketballInsiders.com's Alex Kennedy praised Blatt's brilliance on the sidelines:
This would be an excellent hire for the Cavaliers, as Blatt is considered one of the best basketball coaches outside of the NBA. The term "genius" often gets thrown around when describing Blatt, and it's a dare-to-be-great move that could really pay off for Cleveland.
Blatt was the head coach of Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Israel, and a number of NBA teams were trying to hire him as an assistant coach including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors. However, Blatt wanted to make the jump directly to head coach in the NBA and now it seems like he'll have that opportunity.
The Associated Press' Tom Withers, who reported that Cleveland was slated to interview Blatt on Wednesday, offered his endorsement:
I covered Blatt at London Olympics when he coached Russia. Very bright, energetic. #Cavs— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) June 19, 2014
Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico noted that many outside parties encouraged the Cavs to hire Blatt:
With so much positive testimony and momentum in his favor, it was only a matter of time before someone entrusted Blatt with the future of an organization. Cleveland was wise enough to do so.
Blatt was most recently at the helm of the Israeli Super League's Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, which also participates in the Euroleague, where Blatt guided them to the European Championship this year.
How do you feel about the David Blatt hire?
Then the prolific coach resigned in the hopes of coaching in the Association. Now that dream has been fulfilled, so it will be interesting to see the eager Blatt bring his brand of basketball stateside.
The Golden State Warriors were hoping to add Blatt to their new staff led by Steve Kerr, according to Wojnarowski (h/t Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News). Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is the agent for both Blatt and Kerr, per Leung.
But with how much of a reputation Blatt has accrued, one can hardly blame him for not wanting to play second fiddle. He has plenty of success on his resume and NBA-wide respect to be a legitimate head coach. Now it's up to Blatt to prove he is worth the hype and the lucrative contract he's signing absent any prior coaching stops in the U.S.
Based on the steady work and rave reviews Blatt has garnered over the years, there is reason to believe he will thrive in the NBA. He at least bolsters what has been an unstable coaching situation with the Cavaliers, offering a fresh perspective and dynamic leadership that has the potential to click well.
Cleveland did its due diligence, needing to nail this hire to get the franchise moving back in the right direction. The Cavs concluded Blatt was the proper man for the job, so he shouldn't disappoint.