CLEVELAND – David Blatt went overseas to chase his basketball dreams. He’s coming back to fulfill them.
One of Europe’s top coaches, Blatt was hired Friday by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ended a sweeping, 39-day search with an out-of-the-box selection they hope changes their fortunes.
American-born, Princeton-schooled and considered one of the game’s brightest offensive minds, the 55-year-old Blatt has long been interested in coaching in the NBA and the Cavs will give him his first shot.
The club signed him to a three-year deal that includes a team option for a fourth year and could be worth $20 million. Cleveland contacted high-profile college coaches and interviewed both retreaded head coaches and on-the-rise assistants before zeroing in and landing Blatt, who won several European titles while coaching in Israel and guided Russia to a bronze medal at the London Olympics two years ago.
“David Blatt is going to bring some of the most innovative approaches found in professional basketball anywhere on the globe,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said. “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.”
Blatt will be introduced by the team Wednesday, one day before the club picks first in this year’s NBA draft.
Cleveland’s third coach in three years, Blatt replaces Mike Brown, who was fired — for the second time — on May 12, a few weeks after the Cavs finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Blatt was not believed to be on Cleveland’s radar early in its search, but that changed when he resigned at Maccabi Tel Aviv to pursue an NBA gig.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to come to Cleveland and lead the Cavaliers as their head coach,” Blatt said. “We are going to work extremely hard to achieve the kind of results we all expect and know are possible.”
Blatt also was coveted as an assistant by Golden State and Minnesota, but the Cavs made him the first European coach to make the jump to the NBA.
“David is a great basketball coach and a special person,” said Cavs general manager David Griffin. “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 speak for itself. He brings unbridled passion, energy and creativity to his craft.
“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.”