After 30 years of playing and coaching basketball abroad, David Blatt has finally earned his big break in the United States. On Wednesday, Blatt—who last week stepped down as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv after four seasons with the team—will be officially introduced as the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Here are five things you should know about Blatt as he heads to the NBA.
1. Blatt is a winner wherever he goes. The Euroleague icon has not only won every possible title one can win as a player and coach in Israel, he led Russia to an astonishing European Championship in 2007 and coached the Russian team to a Bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. He was voted Russia Super League coach of the year in 2005, while he was coaching Russian club Dynamo St. Petersburg. During his tenure as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, the yellow-and-blue recorded an impressive 222 wins and 55 losses.
2. Blatt is known for playing as many players as possible during games. He likes to rotate his bench and divide minutes among his star players. This season, 10 players on Blatt’s Maccabi Tel Aviv Euroleague championship squad received significant playing time at some point in the season. With the Cavs’ current roster made up of mostly young, emerging talent, plenty of players will have an opportunity to prove their worth under Coach Blatt.
3. Blatt is famous for going crazy on the sidelines. One Israeli journalist recently told me Blatt’s behavior on the sidelines reminded him of Indiana coaching legend Bobby Knight’s courtside demeanor. In Israel, analysts and pundits loved Blatt’s passion and considered his sideline antics something that only motivated his team. But what about in the NBA? Will the media and the Cavs’ fan base be impressed, or will Blatt have to tone it down?
4. What makes Blatt one of the best coaches in the game is that he knows exactly what each player on his roster needs to do in order for the team to win. (See: Maccabi Tel Aviv’s unexpected Euroleague Championship title.) Blatt adapts his style of basketball to whichever team he is coaching. His former players have said that he made them not only better basketball players, but also smarter players.
5. He’s got fans. Former Cavs sharpshooter Anthony Parker said Blatt was the perfect coach for Cleveland. 2004 NBA all-star Andrei Kirilenko once told the Russian media that Blatt “gives everybody a chance to feel that he is very important and the result of the team depends on each player.” Sports analysts have said Blatt reminds them of a young Gregg Popovich. That might even be enough to catch the attention of former Cavs small forward Lebron James, who happens to be known for being a student of the international game.
Raphael Gellar is a freelance football and basketball journalist covering Israeli sports and international football. He tweets at @raphaelg23.