One of the Cavaliers’ longstanding beliefs is to think big, swing big and always place an emphasis on upside and potential.
Facing a coaching field stocked with young assistants and older career retreads, the Cavs instead traveled 6,000 miles to find a 55-year-old NBA rookie coach full of upside and potential.
The Cavs on Friday evening announced that they have hired David Blatt to be their 20th head coach. He will become the first coach in history to move directly from European basketball to lead an NBA team.
“David Blatt is going to bring some of the most innovative approaches found in professional basketball anywhere on the globe,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said in a news release. “Time and time again, from Russia to Israel and several other prominent head coaching jobs in between, David has done one thing: win.”
The Cavs did not make the contract terms official, but a league source said it’s a three-year deal with a club option on a fourth season. The total value of the contract could reach $20 million, one source with knowledge of the total value said, but it’s unlikely to reach that figure given all of the incentives.
“After spending a great deal of time discussing the organization, the team and the head coach’s role with [general manager] David Griffin, I feel strongly about my fit for the job and this team’s potential,” Blatt said in the release. “This is a proud day for me personally, but I hope just the first of many more for all of us as we work toward a very bright future.”
Blatt departed as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv earlier this month after winning the Israeli League and Euroleague titles to pursue an NBA job, knowing he’d either land in Cleveland as the coach or Golden State as an assistant under Steve Kerr.
Blatt openly conceded following a thrilling Euroleague final four he didn’t have the most talented team, but he certainly coaxed the most out of them.
Now he must learn not only his own players, but also the other 29 teams in the NBA. Rarely has he ever coached the caliber of talent he’ll see now. Anthony Parker, for example, is a legend and former star for Maccabi Tel Aviv. In the NBA, he was a journeyman.
Parker, however, has previously referred to Blatt as his favorite coach and one of the best in the world. Parker declined to comment on Blatt until the contract negotiations are complete.
Blatt typically runs a Princeton-style offense, which is predictable since he played under legendary Princeton coach Pete Carill. Former Cavs coach Byron Scott tried running a Princeton-style offense when he arrived, but quickly scrapped it because the players were struggling to grasp it.
He tried again in subsequent seasons, but with little success.
Blatt will be the Cavs’ third coach in as many seasons after Mike Brown was fired after one year. They will be paying Brown for another four years — or the total potential length of Blatt’s contract.
This coaching search lasted 39 days and involved a plethora of candidates. The Cavs tried unsuccessfully to woo a big-name college coach, reportedly offering John Calipari in excess of $60 million, but were turned down.
They were intrigued by Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue, who has never served as a head coach, and Gentry is close to Cavs General Manager David Griffin and was always considered one of the favorites to land the job.
But Gentry, 59, doesn’t carry a splashy name or elicit much buzz, which is always important to this ownership group. And although Blatt is certainly an unknown in the U.S., he is well known in basketball circles both here and abroad.
Blatt grew up in Massachusetts and is a dual citizen in both Israel and the United States, who has long dreamed of coaching in the NBA.
“No doubt in my mind I can do the job,” Blatt told USA Today last month. “Obviously someone has to want you.”
While the Cavs were sorting out final contract details with Blatt on Friday, they were also scheduled to host Jabari Parker for a private workout. Parker was ranked No. 1 on their draft board much of the season, and now becomes even more of a possibility after Joel Embiid’s surgery.
Embiid had two screws inserted into the navicular bone in his right foot Friday to repair a stress fracture. Dr. Richard Ferkel, who performed the surgery, said in a statement he expects Embiid to play in the NBA after “appropriate healing” and Yahoo Sports reported that healing will take four to six months.
The stress fracture in Embiid’s foot, coupled with the stress fracture in his back a few months ago, likely eliminates him from consideration with the top overall pick in next week’s draft.
That leaves the Cavs to choose between Parker and Andrew Wiggins, who visited the facility earlier this week.
Regardless of who the Cavs select next week, one of the first mysteries of what is sure to be an active summer has been solved.
The Cavs waited nearly six weeks for their coach, but Blatt waited more than 20 years for this opportunity.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.