The Cleveland Cavaliers have the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but he won’t be the only one entering his first NBA season. On Friday evening the Cavaliers made history when they officially named David Blatt as their new head coach. Although it might seem like an unorthodox hire, given the fact that he has zero NBA experience, he is a very accomplished coach and is well recognized throughout the entire basketball community.
Blatt, originally from Framingham, Massachusetts, some twenty miles from Boston, graduated from Princeton University and played point guard for the team from 1977 to 1981 under legendary coach Pete Carril. Much of Blatts philosophies come from what he learned first-hand under Pete Carril’s Princeton offense. In an article from his alma mater’s school paper, he paid tribute to the foundations of his basketball wisdom. “I learned a great deal from my college career at Princeton,” Blatt said. “[Carril] is one of the greatest basketball minds in history. I learned from him many good lessons.” Along with his college career, Blatt has had an extensive professional career in Europe, playing mostly in the Israeli League. After retiring from playing basketball in 1993 with Maccabi Hadera, Blatt had a successful 20-year coaching career, including stints in Israel, Greece, Russia, and Turkey.
Blatt has had a successful coaching career in Europe and comes off a great season with Maccabi Tel Aviv having just recently winning the Israeli cup, the Israeli league and Euro league titles this past year. This isn’t the only year his teams have had success, over the past four years Blatt has coached Maccabi Tel Aviv to an astounding 222-55 record in addition to the 17 championships he had won from various other leagues and tournaments. Blatt also coached the Russian national team to a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
David Blatt gets respect for his techniques, the way he coaches his players and how his tactics are compared to that of some of the great NBA coaches in the game today. Former Cleveland Cavalier player Jeremy Pargo played for Blatt during the 2010-2011 international season. “Blatt is a great coach” Jeremy Pargo told Eurobasket.com. “His pace of the game is pretty much a NBA pace and he coached guys that are familiar with the NBA style. He's really a smart guy," "He understands emotions of players, their different attitudes, and knows how to get the job done.
Those are the ingredients one needs to be a successful coach in the NBA," Pargo added. NBA player Andrei Kirilenko, who played under Blatt for the Russian National team, wrote of Blatt “I respect and value him for his ability to organize players so the strongest qualities of each are used one hundred percent. He is able to motivate a team using a positive approach even though he could be strict enough without using psychological pressure.”
Blatt’s unique modification on the famous Princeton offense along with his psychological approach to his players can create an innovative style in today’s NBA.
Years of mediocrity after the departure of Lebron James has allowed the Cavaliers to accumulate a lot of young talented players with a lot of potential. They were a team who struggled last season and Blatt will have a lot of decisions to make about how he is going to move forward to turn this team around.
The Cavalier’s direction with the number one overall pick in this years NBA draft will be someone who can be efficient in Blatts brand of basketball. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve this team, the hiring Blatt is a step in the right direction.
The hiring of Blatt is a milestone in the NBA as he is the first European Coach in history to coach a NBA team. Blatt is very excited for the opportunity and the challenge that it brings. “I couldn’t be more excited about coming to Cleveland and lead the Cavaliers as their head coach,” Blatt said in the release. “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.”