INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — David Blatt doesn’t consider himself an Israeli coach, European coach or NBA coach. He doesn’t favor offense over defense.
“I’m a basketball coach,” he said.
Blatt, who spent the past two decades winning titles across Europe, was introduced on Wednesday as the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team in transition and one preparing to select first in Thursday night’s draft.
Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague championship this season, and the 55-year-old guided Russia to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
He was hired last week by the Cavs, who spent 39 days looking to replace Mike Brown, fired following a 33-49 season. After speaking to as many as 11 candidates, the team selected Blatt.
“I have won everywhere I’ve been,” he said, “and I plan on doing the same here.”
Born in Massachusetts, Blatt, who played at Princeton, is the first coach to make the move from Europe to the NBA.
“I know I’m carrying the torch, and I hope like hell I don’t drop it,” he said. “I don’t plan to.”
Blatt arrives at an interesting time for the Cavs. They own the No. 1 overall selection in the draft and are expected to make a strong push to sign LeBron James, who opted out of the final two years of his Miami contract on Tuesday and is a free agent.
Blatt believes he’s inheriting a quality roster and believes the Cavs are capable of “doing some special things.”
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said Blatt was hired after an exhaustive interview process. He said Cleveland’s third coach in three years embodies everything they were looking for.
“He’s a guy who has passion, creativity and intelligence,” Griffin said. “And as a coach he’s able to adjust in ways that I think make him special. But he lives those things as a man, as well. Because of that, players all feel him in a very powerful way. David is an authentic leader. I believe very strongly that’s what drew all of us to him.”