In the end, David Blatt’s decision came down to one factor.
Is he willing to let go of his dream to coach again in the NBA? After much deliberation and after mulling his different options he knew what he had to do.
It won’t happen this summer. But Blatt is determined to give himself another chance to return to the NBA.
“I have an end game and that end game is that I would really like to go back to the NBA,” Blatt told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“There were no changes in the NBA this year from a coaching standpoint and my real goal is to try next year to get back into the league as a head coach. It may happen and it may not happen. But I wanted to leave that door open for myself if the opportunity arises.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv made Blatt a lucrative three-year offer earlier this summer. The 58-year-old considered it, but ultimately chose to return to Turkish club Darussafaka for another season. He understood he would be doing both himself and Maccabi an injustice by accepting a long-term project and then leaving after one year.
“With my long and very good relationship with Maccabi, I just felt that it wouldn’t be right on my part to take over a program that really needs a long term commitment and overhaul and then after one year, if I decide to, take advantage of an option and leave for the NBA,” explained Blatt.
“I don’t think that is what the program needs. I didn’t feel good about that. I thought about it very seriously, but in my mind it was a decision to step away from what my end game goal was. The idea of coming back to Maccabi obviously interested me greatly, but ultimately I decided that I wasn’t willing to give up on that dream just yet. If it happens that will be justified and if it doesn’t happen at least I was honest with myself about going after it.”
Blatt’s first NBA experience ended disappointingly and abruptly when he was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the 2015/16 season. He guided the Cavs to the NBA Finals the previous year and the team owned the best record in the East at the time of his sacking.
Cleveland went on to win a first championship in franchise history at the end of the season and Blatt received a championship ring, saying he chose to accept it as it was “earned, not given.”
Blatt insists he doesn’t look back and said he remains in touch with several people in the organization, including new general manager Koby Altman, whom he will meet next week in Israel during the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Europe camp.
Blatt almost landed another NBA job last summer, being among the final candidates for the openings in New York, Houston and Sacramento.
“Sometimes you can be right there and at the last moment you don’t get it and that’s life,” said Blatt. “That is the realistic and competitive environment of trying to get a job of that nature. There is no guarantee.”
Blatt guided Darussafaka to the Euroleague quarterfinals and Turkish league semifinals last season. He will have to get used to life in the Eurocup in the coming season, with the Istanbul club not receiving a Euroleague wild card for 2017/18.
“The situation was sort of unexpected and unforeseen for me, but despite the changes I’m happy to be going back,” insisted Blatt. “I was very pleased with our last season. I enjoyed very much working for this club and we had great results.
Despite options in other places and offers to leave, I decided that for my long term plan going back for another year would be okay.”
While he remains focused on achieving his coaching aspirations, Blatt is still intent on pursuing a career in diplomacy.
“I’ve always said and I’ve always felt that one day I’d like to take my collective experience as a sports ambassador and as a representative of Israel in the field of my career to another type of career,” noted Blatt. “I’m not there just yet but going down the line that is how I feel. I’d like very much to one day do something for Israel in representative fashion, a job that would allow me to continue to spread the good word about our country and people.”
Besides working out his own future, Blatt has also enjoyed an exciting summer as a father. His son Tamir was the star of Israel’s under-20 national team that went all the way to the final of the European Championship in Crete, Greece. The 20-year-old was selected to the all-tournament first team, finishing with averages of 16.0 points and 10.1 assists per game. He became the first player in tournament history to average over 10 assists throughout the event.
“Obviously he is my son so I’m proud of him no matter what he does. He is a good kid and he is about the right things,” said Blatt. “As a basketball player and a basketball coach I was amazed, as many people were, at just how outstanding and dominant he was in that tournament.”
“What he did was not a small thing and the fact that together with his performance he was instrumental in leading his team to the final is really special.”
“This is not a normal kid in terms of his approach, in terms of his commitment and in terms of the effort he puts in to maximizing his potential and ability,” added Blatt about Tamir, who will be playing for Hapoel Holon next season. “I know where it is coming from and that makes it all the more joyous. In the last few years I have not been so involved, but for many many years I was very involved. He took the decision I had hoped he would make by joining Holon, but it was not my decision.”
Blatt will return to Turkey next week to begin Darussafaka’s preparations for 2017/18. He is fully focused on guiding the team to a successful campaign, all the while hoping that it will be his last in Europe for the time being before he makes a return to the NBA.
“There are only 30 NBA jobs in the whole world and I have had one before and in many ways it was pretty good,” said Blatt.
“There have been a lot of very good coaches that have sat out more than a year and have made their way back to the NBA and have been very successful. I can’t say that I have a 100 percent chance, but on the other hand I have on what to stand. If it is in the cards then it will happen and if it’s not then I’ll do other things.”[email protected]