David Blatt’s team was 30-11 and coming off a trip to the NBA Finals when he was fired mid-season in Cleveland. It was ultimately this simple: LeBron James and other key players did not like Blatt much, and if the Cavaliers were going to win a title, they needed everybody to be all-in. Blatt was shown the door, Tyronn Lue got the job, and the Cavaliers brought the first major sports title to Cleveland in five decades.
Blatt is back coaching in Israel, but told the Jerusalem Post his ultimate goal is to return to the NBA (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“I have an end game and that end game is that I would really like to go back to the NBA,” Blatt told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“There were no changes in the NBA this year from a coaching standpoint and my real goal is to try next year to get back into the league as a head coach. It may happen and it may not happen. But I wanted to leave that door open for myself if the opportunity arises.”
Blatt’s name came up in the last coaching hires in New York and Sacramento, but after missing out he signed to coach Turkish team Darussafaka (where he remains, having turned down a lucrative three-year offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv so he could keep his NBA options open.
On paper, Blatt deserves another chance: The guy knows the game and his teams in Cleveland won 67.5 percent of their games.
The question is, did he learn how to better relate to NBA players — who have the power — than he did before. Blatt came in expecting deference and credit for all his titles and success in Europe, but NBA players shrugged at that. Blatt needed to be the smartest guy in the room, always, and with that made some odd lineup and play-calling choices. That said, a lot of what he wanted the Cavaliers to do — play faster, share the ball more freely with less isolation — were things Tyronn Lue wanted and got them to do. The question was never did Blatt know what the Cavs needed to do, it was could he get them to do it?
Anywhere he goes in the NBA, the dynamic will be similar (not quite LeBron like in power, but elite players are what franchises are built around) and Blatt has to adjust to it. If he can get buy in from players, he can win, but if he can’t he will be gone again quickly, back to Europe where coaches have the dictatorial power of an American college coach.