The Cleveland Cavaliers have decided to make David Blatt their next head coach. When the search for Mike Brown's replacement began more than a month ago, Blatt's name was nowhere to be found among the rumored candidates. His lack of NBA experience makes him a bit of an unconventional hire. But the people who know things about him seem to really like what he brings to the table.
Woj is a big fan (this tweet is from two years ago):
Someday, someone in NBA will have the vision to hire Russian national and Euro coach David Blatt. He's simply one of the best on the planet.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 4, 2012
ESPN's Zach Lowe also approves:
I've only watched Blatt's Russia teams, but NBA execs who know international game are big fans. Bit of a taskmaster, but players love him.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 20, 2014
Jordan White of Hardwood Paroxysm thinks that Blatt is a risk, but one worth taking:
"This, however, is a different sort of risk. Blatt's an unproven product in the NBA, but far from one as a coach. He's helmed teams at the highest levels of basketball outside of the NBA, most recently with Macabbi Tel Aviv, whom he led to the Euroleague championship this season. He was also the head coach of the men's Russian national team at the Olympics, who won the bronze medal in 2012. So the risk isn't whether Blatt can coach, but whether his system and style can translate to the NBA."
Terry Pluto agrees:
"After first rejecting the idea when the reports about Blatt surfaced a week ago, more research led me to become intrigued by him. San Antonio has more of a European 'share the ball' approach to offense. Having players properly spaced is supposed to be one of Blatt's strengths."
Former Ohio State star Scoonie Penn played for Blatt in Turkey, and he spoke to 92.3 The Fan about it.
Alex Kennedy threw out the word "genius," which is a word often used to describe Blatt:
"Over the last two decades, Blatt has established himself as one of the game's best overseas coaches and he has a trophy case packed with international championships, Olympic medals and Coach of the Year awards to prove it. He turned around Russia's national team, winning the 2007 Eurobasket championship and taking home a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The word 'genius' often gets thrown around when Blatt is being described, as he has a reputation for being an offensive mastermind and one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to game-planning and making adjustments."
John Schuhmann took a look at the pace and passing of Blatt's two most recent teams. Interestingly, there were significant differences between the two:
"Blatt's Russia teams have been better defensively than offensively. They've also played slow and shared the ball at a high rate. ... But while Blatt's Maccabi Tel Aviv teams have also played slow, they haven't assisted at a high rate. And they've been better offensively than defensively."
Here are reactions from a couple of former Cavs players:
Jeremy Pargo (@ImJustPargo) June 20, 2014
Good luck Coach Blatt. He will be a great teacher and a role model. Expect big things!— Omri Casspi (@Casspi18) June 20, 2014
Grantland's Danny Chau wrote that Blatt needs to be careful to avoid becoming overly detail-obsessed:
"Every single play matters to him. There is no forest. There is only the tree directly in front of you. Pop and Thibs are the good precedents set, but you don't have to look far to see where it could go wrong. Mike Dunlap, who coached the Bobcats during the 2012-13 season, had a similar obsession to detail. He overloaded on the practices early and burned out players way sooner than necessary. The NBA has a much more rigorous schedule than European leagues, and Blatt will need a strong assistant or associate head coach to help him reconcile his impulses as a coach and the realities of the league."