After Pilsen, Blatt is only looking forward

The Russian national team coach discusses his experiences in Turkey and the upcoming Olympics.

blatt david 88 (photo credit:)
blatt david 88
(photo credit: )
Speaking to David Blatt 48 hours after he was pushed out of Turkish club Efes Pilsen one can't help but be surprised by how calm and content he sounds. Despite the unexpected development, Blatt is not bitter and has no bad feelings towards Pilsen's management over its decision to terminate his contract. He's just eager to leave the past behind and move forward. "Expectations were very high at the start of the season. Coming in after nine or 10 years of involvement with teams that won championships in one form or another every single year meant that expectations were that I would do the same thing in my first year in Pilsen and that did not occur," Blatt said over the phone from Turkey. "I was very surprised. We're three games away from the end of the season and the team is firmly in second place and still has a chance to finish first before the start of the playoffs. We won three games in a row until the bad loss on Sunday." Blatt, who was notified of the management's decision after the team's 81-77 defeat to Pinar Karsiyaka, said he believes that the beginning of the end came when Drew Nicholas, Rashad Wright and Loren Woods were released from Pilsen at the start of March after they refused to travel to Belgrade to face Partizan, citing personal security concerns. "This hasn't been the best year in my career and I know there was frustration over a number of different things that happened during the course of the season, particularly with what happened when a quarter of the team didn't fly to Serbia for the Euroleague game against Partizan," Blatt says. "We lost those players and from that point we were trying to rebuild the team and that's not an easy thing to do at this stage of the season." Pilsen's General Manager Engin Ozerhun claimed that the club wasn't satisfied with the team's results in the league and the Euroleague, but Blatt looked at the situation slightly differently. "I also wasn't pleased with the results, but I'm a little less emotional and a little more realistic about it than the management. Once we lost three key players from the team our chances to succeed in the Euroleague were basically nil. We were playing games with six or seven players. "There was some disappointment from the management, which I can understand. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I can understand where it came from. "The management was also upset by the claims that I was going to CSKA next year, which up to this point are totally unfounded. They said here we are, we lost a game this bad and you're on your way to CSKA for all this money. The sad thing is that these things aren't true." Blatt had no interest on even commenting on the rumors linking him to CSKA Moscow. "Right now I don't want to even talk about a team which has a coach under contract, not to mention negotiate with it. I think that's wrong and I won't do it. "There's a lot of speculation going on, particularly about CSKA because there are claims that current coach Ettore Messina is going to Barcelona and they're going to need a coach. Whether or not that's true time will tell, but no one in CSKA is talking to other coaches and certainly not to me." Until this week Blatt had never been fired from a club midway through the season and he plans to finally take a break thanks to his newly found free time. "My children are in school in Turkey until June so I'll be in Istanbul at least part of the time with my family. I'll also spend some time in Russia following my players from the national team ahead of the Olympic Games. "I'm also going to rest. I haven't rested in many years. I've always been coaching year round and maybe the rest will do me some good." Blatt led Russia to a surprise European Championship title last September and can't wait for the Olympics in Beijing. "I'm the coach of the European Champion Russia national team and I'm looking forward to coaching this summer in the Olympics. I'm excited to be fulfilling my lifelong dream of participating in the Olympics." Despite being based in Turkey, Blatt remains in close touch with his colleagues in Israel, especially with embattled Hapoel Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir. "All I can say is what I've said all along and I truly believe this. I think Dan is a great coach and like all great coaches he's got results to prove it. He has two Israeli cup titles and came two seconds away from winning the Israeli championship in historic fashion," he said. Right now he's going through tough times with Jerusalem. As I know him he will come out of it with his team and, even if he doesn't, Jerusalem is doing the right thing by giving him the opportunity to coach the team through the season because he's done great work ever since he's been there." As a former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Blatt also keeps close track of the yellow-and-blue's progress and he's extremely optimistic ahead of Thursday's decisive game against Barcelona in the Euroleague quarterfinal playoff. "I know that inside the program they're not overconfident. They're going to speak confidently because they should. They're Maccabi Tel Aviv and they're playing at home and they've beaten this team at Nokia before," Blatt said. "But I don't think we have to worry about them being over confident coming into Thursday. All of my basketball knowledge, as well as my heart, tells me that they will win the game." You can be sure that despite the fact that he's watching from afar this year it won't be long before Blatt, like Maccabi, also finds himself once more on course to reach the summit of European club basketball.