Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt announced today at a press conference that he would be stepping down after four seasons with the team and heading to the NBA. It’s unclear what his NBA gig will be, but he reportedly interviewed for an assistant with the Golden State Warriors last week and is meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a head coaching position next week. According to the AP, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks are also interested in the Princeton grad, who earlier this month led Maccabi Tel Aviv to their unexpected Euroleague win
The Boston native, whose Wikipedia page boasts perhaps the greatest sports origin ever written—“David Blatt began his coaching career as Head Landsports at Camp Arowhon, where he coached the Arowhon basketball team to a close loss against Tamakwa”—said at the press conference that coaching in the NBA had always been a dream of his.
Blatt spoke with Tablet contributor Rebecca Meiser in 2012 about the two perhaps best-known Jewish basketball players in recent years: Houston Rockets small forward Omri Casspi and Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan,” whose career fizzled early.
“Omri is the story of the underdog, the self-made man,” says David Blatt, the coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, who has worked with both athletes. And Goodman’s is the story of how the weight of expectations can overwhelm a young athlete. “Even today the term ‘Jewish Jordan’ makes me cringe because it did such a disservice to him,” Blatt says.
Fortunately for the 55-year-old Blatt, who played for Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa in the 80s, taking his time getting to the NBA seems to have paid off. As he said during the press conference, “I wish I could have done it as a player. I wasn’t good enough. But now perhaps I’ll have that opportunity as a coach.”
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Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.