Blatt happy to stay in Europe, despite talk of move to NBA

Israeli coach tells 'Post' it would take a 'really attractive' offer to lure him across the Atlantic.

By
October 2, 2007 01:49
blatt david 88

blatt david 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Only a top coaching position in the NBA would tempt David Blatt to leave European basketball. The 48-year-old Israeli, who led the Russian national team to the EuroBasket title just a couple of weeks ago and will coach at Turkish side Efes Pilsen this season, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that it would require a 'really really attractive' proposition to lure him across the Atlantic. "Short of a very high level position in coaching in the NBA I don't see myself going there," Blatt said. "Everybody is making a big deal about the NBA. Maybe it's more important to other people than it is to me. "I'm really happy with my position in European coaching. I've won championships with my teams in recent years and developed great players. I've worked in great programs and right now I'm very pleased with my situation. "If something special were to come along from the NBA that were really really attractive then I would consider it. But I'm not out there actively seeking that." Blatt has been tipped by many basketball commentators to be a candidate for making the rare leap from European to NBA coaching. Israel national coach Tzvika Sherf even went as far as saying recently that "If a European coach will reach the NBA in the coming years it will be David." However, Blatt stressed that it won't be easy to attract him to leave European basketball. "There are a lot of great NBA coaches and I don't know if it's going to be easy for a European coach to come over and start in a high level position," he said. "I need a high level of responsibility and I need a chance to lead players in an overall fashion and not just be a small part of an NBA organization. If it's not in the cards for me - no big deal. It could well be that my NBA experience will come later in my career in some kind of managerial position. Down the line I can see that happening. "I'm realistic and I know that people are not in any hurry to take a guy just because he's a great European coach. I hope that ultimately if somebody comes my way with a serious offer it will be because they think and believe that I can do the job there and not just as a gimmick or because there trying to do something new for the sake of doing something new." Blatt, who said that he would be content to coach in Europe for the rest of his career, has steadily built his name as one of the continent's best coaches. He was born and raised in the US, but moved to Israel in the early 80s after playing for the American basketball team in the 1981 Maccabiah. The former guard, who played collegiate basketball at Princeton University under coach Pete Carril, began his coaching career at Hapoel Galil Elyon in 1994. Five years later he was appointed as Pini Gershon's assistant at Maccabi Tel Aviv, remaining with the club until 2004. Blatt left for Russian club Dynamo St. Petersburg in 2004 and led the team to the FIBA EuroCup. He then moved to Italian giant Benetton Treviso, winning an Italian championship and cup in his two seasons at the club. Despite his outstanding achievements nobody expected Blatt to guide Russia to the European title in Spain earlier this month. But Blatt is confident nevertheless, that the recent success wasn't a one-off and that the team is capable of claiming an Olympic medal in Beijing next year. "We believe we can compete with anyone," he said. "I know realistically we are probably going to fall somewhere between the sixth and ninth positions and we're just going to try and shock the world again like we did Europe." Blatt believes that Russia's victory in the title game over Spain was the culmination of a successful long term plan. "We had a very good plan in the last two years," he said. "We started from ground zero having to qualify for the EuroBasekt tournament last summer. Also I think more importantly we changed the mentality of the team and the attitude of the players and the overall commitment of everyone involved in the program. From day one our aim was to try and be successful and make the Olympics. We put in a lot of thought and effort of how we could go about creating that environment and how we could go about building that commitment in the players. "We monitored the guys during the past season to make sure they were physically maintaining the standards and criteria we had set for them. The fact that we were talking to them and following them in every way, helped them understand how committed we were to them and how important it was for them to stay within the guidelines of the program." Blatt was also full of praise for Israel's achievement in the European Championships. "I thought that together with us they were the best story in the EuroBasket tournament. I don't think anybody foresaw them being as successful as they were. They did tremendously well to qualify and play so well in the tournament and ultimately be one game away form the final eight. You've really got to take your hats off for what they did." The new Euroleague season is just around the corner and Blatt is looking forward to a successful campaign with his new side Efes Pilsen. "I'd like to see us be very a competitive and successful team in the Euroleague. I'd like to see us win as many titles as we can. I'd like to see us win the Turkish championship, which this team hasn't done in two years. "The Euroleague Final Four is a goal. We built a new team and I'm not sure if we are as big and strong as the big budgeted teams in Europe now. But we sure would like to compete for that and like to make that a goal." Pilsen and Maccabi Tel Aviv will both compete in Group B of European basketballs most prestigious competition and Blatt will face his former team on November 8 at the Nokia Arena. "I think Maccabi has a very talented team. But obviously you've got to put it together and see how all the parts fit," he said. "You've got to make a winning team out of a talent. But if anyone has experience in building winning teams in the last 10 years its Maccabi Tel Aviv."

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