Israeli basketball fans are whooping it up as recently resigned Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt signs head coach position with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the first time an Israeli will coach an NBA team.
After Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a stunning upset of Real Madrid in this year’s Euroleague championship, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begged him to stay on as coach. But the American-born, 55-year-old Blatt resigned his post and hoped for an NBA contract instead.
“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 Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin.
Reports say Blatt signed a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year, in a deal worth up to $20 million.
A former player, Blatt built a successful 20-year coaching career including head coaching stints in Israel, Greece, Russia and Turkey. In 1996, he was named Israeli League Coach of the Year, the first of four times he would receive the award throughout his career (1996, 2002, 2011 and 2014).
“David Blatt is going to bring some of the most innovative approaches found in professional basketball anywhere on the globe. Time and time again, from Russia to Israel and several other prominent head coaching jobs in between, David has done one thing: ‘win’. He is not only an innovator, well-trained and focused on both sides of the court, but he is always learning and always teaching,” said majority owner Dan Gilbert.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to come to Cleveland and lead the Cavaliers as their head coach. We are going to work extremely hard to achieve the kind of results we all expect and know are possible,” said Blatt.