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Cavaliers fire Israeli coach David Blatt in second season

Sources say Israeli-American coach who led Cleveland to NBA finals last year has been let go

Then-Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt calls a play during the first half of Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, in Cleveland, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP/Tony Dejak)
Then-Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt calls a play during the first half of Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, in Cleveland, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP/Tony Dejak)

A person familiar with the decision says the Cavaliers have fired coach David Blatt, who led the team to the NBA Finals last season.

Blatt was dismissed Friday, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the move. Blatt’s top assistant, Tyronn Lue, will to take over as coach, the person said.

The Cavaliers (30-11) host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Blatt’s firing came one day after the coach was defensive following the team’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Blatt was bothered by criticism his team led by LeBron James received after a 34-point loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors earlier this week.

Blatt’s second season was going better than his first year, when he struggled to adapt to the NBA game after being a successful coach in Europe and Israel. But despite injuries and a team learning to mesh with stars James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs still made it to the finals before losing to the Warriors in six games.

Following Thursday night’s win over the Clippers, Blatt shared a moment with James at his locker. The pair shook hands and smiled at each other, without any hint that a coaching change could be forthcoming.

Moments earlier, Blatt was defensive about comments made about his team in the wake of the blowout loss to Golden State. He argued that his team deserved more credit than it was getting and said he was doing so because “it’s about my guys.”

Blatt grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and immigrated to Israel in 1981 to play professional basketball. He became a coach after suffering a career-ending injury.

He spent many years as a successful coach in professional basketball in Israel and other countries, most notably leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to victory in the Euroleague Championship in 2014. Later that year, he was named head coach of the Cavaliers.

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