By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
One of the most successful Euroleague coaches will have the chance to shine in the NBA. David Blatt will sit on the bench of Cleveland Cavaliers with a huge contract (20 million US dollars for four years) by European standards. The former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach, who has also the “Alexander Gomelski Euroleague coach of the year” award in his pocket – it was finally announced on the 7th of July – after two decades of work in the old continent has achieved the higher possible professional goal for a basketball coach. Still, Blatt is a unique case, like Mike D’Antony was before him.
Many consider the hiring of coach Blatt a win for European basketball, a move that breaks the barriers with the NBA and will be the start for more head coaches crossing the pond. Certainly it’s a hiring that helps American audience understand that there’s high level basketball outside the USA borders, but on the same time it’s not really a move that puzzles the casual NBA fan, like it would have been the hiring of coach Dusan Ivkovic by Denver back in 2001, when Duda was in negotiations with the NBA franchise.
Blatt never had any NBA experience as a player or as a coach, like D’Antony did before his illustrious career in Europe. Still, Blatt grew up in the States, he is an Israeli-American – not a foreigner – and above everything else, he is a product of American basketball. He played under legendary coach Pete Carril in Princeton and that’s a big enough stamp of approval, even for a shot in the NBA.
Of course, Blatt’s two biggest successes came in a strictly European stage, winning the Euroleague this year with Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Eurobasket as the coach of the Russian national team in 2007. Make no mistake, though, in Europe he is not considered European. When he was coaching Aris BC in Greece, during the press conference after a regular season game against Olympiacos he said: “Our opponents were shooting the three like they were playing horseshoes”. He meant that Olympiacos‘ players were hardly missing a shot, but nobody in the room understood the analogy with an unknown in Europe game and he had to elaborate on the meaning of his words.
That’s why David Blatt will feel right at home in the NBA, he will be regularly stealing the show with his quotes, like he has done in the old continent, and he will not have any problem adapting to the new environment. Every basketball personality, player, coach, journalist or fan in Europe will be rooting for his success, because he more than deserves it, but until someone like Ettore Messina, or Zeljko Obradovic sit on the bench of an NBA team, nothing will really change for European coaches.