Israeli basketball coach fired by US team

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The Cleveland Cavaliers fired their Israeli-American head coach David Blatt, pictured, who led the team to the NBA Finals last season midway through this one.
by ANT KATZ with JTA | Jan 24, 2016

Huge surprise


Blatt confirmed that he was fired last Friday in an announcement put out by his agency. He also released a separate statement thanking the Cavaliers.

He thanked the Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin for giving him the opportunity and said he was honoured to have worked with such an amazing group of players.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Blatt said in the statement. He mentioned players like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Blatt1


RIGHT: Blatt took his Maccabi Tel Aviv to an improbable win of the Euroleague championship in 2014 before becoming the first Euroleague coach to leap to an NBA head coaching position later in the year     - Photo: Getty / Screenshot

 

“I’d also like to express my extreme gratitude to my coaching staff. I am indebted to them for their professionalism, hard work, loyalty and friendship. I am proud of what we have accomplished since I have been the head coach and wish the Cavaliers nothing but the best this season and beyond.”

The Cavaliers’ assistant coach, Tyronn Lue, will take over as head coach, having agreed to a three-year deal.

Sports news media giant ESPN reported that Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said he did not consult the team’s superstar forward, LeBron James, before making the coaching change.

BlattMany Cavaliers players, especially the veterans, felt that Blatt was unprepared for the job and questioned whether he knew the NBA well enough to guide them to a championship.


LEFT: Blatt with Cavaliers star LeBron James discuss moves during the fourth quarter of a game against the Atlanta Hawks during the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals on May 26, 2015. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 


Blatt grew up in the US where he was a Boston Celtics fan in Framingham, Massachusetts, played high school basketball and attended Hebrew School at Temple Beth Am. He went on to play point for Princeton University.

During college, Blatt played for a kibbutz basketball team in the summer. He won a gold medal in the 1981 Maccabi Games with the US basketball team.

 

Blatt played 9 of the next 12 years in Israel, before retiring in 1993 to become a coach. He coached in Israel, Russia and around Europe. As head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel’s dominant professional basketball team, Blatt became a local celebrity and won respect around the world.

Blatt’s Israeli wife and four children live in Tel Aviv.

After initially struggling to adapt to the NBA game, the Cavaliers under Blatt made it to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. So far this season, they have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

In a season and a half at the helm, Blatt guided the Cavaliers to an 83-40 record; his .675 winning percentage was the best of any coach in franchise history.

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