Former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team coach David Blatt was named Monday as Euroleague’s coach of the year, shortly after securing a contract with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Blatt was awarded the prestigious title after he received a majority of votes in a ballot in which all of this year’s Euroleague coaches took part.
American-born and Princeton-educated, Blatt spent the past two decades winning titles in Israel and leading Russia to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a stunning upset of Real Madrid in this year’s Euroleague championship. In the celebration afterward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded with him to stay. But the chance to coach in the NBA was too much to resist and Blatt, who emigrated to Israel after college, will return to reside in the United States for the first time in 30 years.
While Blatt is a virtual unknown in the US, he’s been a coaching star on the international stage for years. NBA executives have had him on their radar for some time, and he was coveted by Minnesota and Golden State to join their staffs as an assistant.
Blatt played point guard at Princeton under legendary coach Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril, whose pass-and-cut offense has often been mimicked. Blatt has incorporated elements of the Princeton system into his offense.
Cleveland’s surprising decision to give Blatt the job came after the team talked to several high-profile college coaches and met with some former NBA head coaches and other up-and-coming assistants.