It seems like no stone has been left unturned and no angle left unexamined in dissecting David Blatt’s sacking by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James has been vilified and exonerated, general manager David Griffin doubted and defended, while Blatt has been portrayed as both a culprit and a victim.
We have certainly not heard the last on the matter, but for Blatt, and in fact for everyone else involved, it is all water under the bridge.
The Cavs have moved on and so will Blatt.
Question is: Where does Blatt go from here? According to the expert opinion of ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein, it will not be long before Blatt will be coaching in the NBA again.
“He will be a head coach again someday. He is well-respected around the league and people understand that, in many ways, he was doomed from the start because he was hired by the Cavs before they got LeBron back and that he never would have gotten that job if the Cavs had re-signed LeBron first,” Stein told The Jerusalem Post. “My latest information is that he’s focused on staying in the NBA and I really hope that’s the case.
He’s done everything he can do in Europe. It would be great to see him go somewhere else in the league and really coach aggressively like he did at his Maccabi best.”
Blatt was fired by the Cavs despite leading the franchise to the 2015 NBA Finals and the best record in the Eastern Conference so far this season. The surprise sacking of the second-year coach came four days after the Cavs suffered their worst defeat of the NBA season – a 132-98 home loss to defending champion Golden State – although the team still held a 30-11 record and a three-and-a-half-game lead in the East.
Blatt led the Cavaliers to a 53-29 record in his first season with the team in 2014/15 and had a winning percentage of 0.728 in his 1½ seasons with Cleveland.
He has the highest winning percentage (minimum 10 games) of any coach fired during a season, but Stein said he could have certainly done several things differently to extend his stay in Cleveland.
“I’m sure he wishes he would have coached more forcefully ... more like he did at Maccabi,” said Stein. “He’s not blameless here. I know most Israelis would make him prime minister if they could – and I understand why – but he did make his share of mistakes along the way that made the job tougher.
“A coach has to earn buy-in from his players; it’s not just handed to him. But I also know what I’m saying here is obviously easier said than done to have expected him to assert himself as a newcomer to the NBA like he did in Europe.
At Maccabi, David had the power equivalent to a coach and GM in the NBA. In the NBA, star players have more power than the coach. It’s the way it’s always been and it’s the way it’ll always be.”
Brooklyn and Minnesota have already been mentioned as possible landing spots for Blatt, with the former currently playing under interim coach Tony Brown.
The circumstances of Blatt’s firing resulted in an almost unprecedented show of support from his NBA colleagues. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich praised Blatt for his success coaching the Cavs, while Golden State head coach Steve Kerr even went as far as to say that maybe he should also be worried.
Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy echoed those sentiments in a rant to reporters.
“It’s embarrassing for the league.
Really. As I’ve said before, we all get into this no matter what happens.
David Blatt had injuries this year, and everything else. We all know nobody cares about that. You’re supposed to win. He did. He did, and now he’s still getting fired,” said Van Gundy. “That one — to me — elevated all of the coach firings totally into the theater of the absurd. It was insane. It’s getting ridiculous.
“I don’t know if anybody knows what the expectations of coaches are anymore. Did he order the wrong type of food for post game meals? Did he not give David Griffin [general manager] a nice enough Christmas present? I don’t know,” added Van Gundy. “If David Blatt’s getting fired, how in the hell do the rest of us have jobs? Because our front offices aren’t quite as crazy as theirs.”
Blatt, who moved to Israel more than 30 years ago after playing for the USA basketball team in the 1981 Maccabiah, surprisingly was appointed head coach of the Cavs in 2014 after guiding Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague title in 2013/14.
Blatt had coached Maccabi in the previous four seasons and also led the Russian national team to the European title in 2007 and an Olympic bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.
However, he couldn’t survive in Cleveland.
“I think people around the league understand that this was a unique set of circumstances,” said Stein. “He wouldn’t have gotten the job if [owner] Dan Gilbert didn’t push hardest in Cleveland to hire him, but Dan Gilbert also put him in an impossible position.
The Cavs never should have hired Blatt in late June if they were going to pursue LeBron essentially 10 days later in the summer of 2014. They should have waited to hire a coach if they thought they had even a five-percent chance at landing LeBron.”
Stein said that Blatt might be wise to take a job as an assistant coach rather than biding his time until he is offered a head coaching position, but he is nevertheless confident that it is only a matter of time until the American-Israeli is back in the NBA limelight.
“Is he willing to take an assistant coaching job somewhere first? That might be a smart way to get back in and wait for the right head coaching opportunity, as we’re seeing this season with the likes of Monty Williams in Oklahoma City or Mike D’Antoni in Philadelphia, but only David knows if he’s willing to be an assistant somewhere first,” explained Stein. “I don’t think he needs to rush into anything. I imagine he’s going to want to wait for the most favorable conditions for his next head coaching opportunity after so many things worked against him in Cleveland.”