(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
David Blatt announced on Thursday that he is leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv for the NBA, but insisted that he has yet to make a decision regarding his eventual destination.
A day after guiding Maccabi to a 51st Israeli league championship in club history, capping a remarkable season in which the yellow-and-blue also claimed the Euroleague title and the State Cup, Blatt declared that he has decided to leave Tel Aviv after four years as head coach and follow his dream of coaching in the NBA.
“I'm leaving my home, but not my family. I feel that this is the right thing for me to do,” said Blatt. “I'm not leaving Maccabi for a bigger contract. I'm not necessarily leaving for a better place. I'm leaving to follow my dream.”
Blatt has been linked with the head coaching position at the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as assistant roles with the Golden State Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks.
Blatt, who was in the US last week following the sudden death of his father, met with Golden State's new head coach Steve Kerr for some 45 minutes at Los Angeles International Airport during a six-hour layoff while he was awaiting his connection flight to Israel. However, he was also approached by the Cavs regarding their head coaching vacancy following the sacking of Mike Brown last month. It has also been reported that Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations, Flip Saunders, who named himself as the team's new head coach last week, is interested in bringing in Blatt as an assistant and grooming him as his eventual successor.
Blatt said on Thursday that he hasn't received an offer from the Cavs, but added that recent reports which linked him with the likes of Golden State, Minnesota and Atlanta, were largely accurate.
"I feel that this is the best time for me to leave. I was offered to stay but I decided to take this step,” said Blatt. "The truth is that I don't know yet where I am going. There are several options, good options, and now that I have told Maccabi that I'm leaving I will intensify my talks with NBA teams. I just want to realize a dream and hold a significant role with an NBA team."
Blatt, who first joined Maccabi as an assistant coach in 1999, said he will make his decision very shortly.
"I can't talk at the moment about a certain job. I can't say at the moment exactly what position I will take,” he claimed. “I never enter a job thinking of how to prevent a failure. I always enter thinking of how I can help the team. I hope I can contribute as much as I have been fortunate enough to have done here at Maccabi."
Blatt endorsed his assistant at Maccabi over the past four years and former Hapoel Jerusalem coach, Guy Goodes, as his replacement, and although the club's management refused to confirm his appointment on Thursday, an official announcement is expected in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa star Donta Smith claimed on Thursday that he thought his team had secured the BSL championship when he attempted the final shot of the second leg of the final against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.
After Tel Aviv won the first leg 81-77 on the road, Haifa sent the game to overtime with a 79-75 win in regulation. The Greens led by two points (84-82) as Smith prepared to attempt the final shot of the game.
Smith drove to the basket and his shot was ultimately blocked by Alex Tyus, but he said he was sure Haifa had already wrapped up a second straight championship, believing that a win by any margin in overtime would be sufficient for his team.
“The point system was definitely off to me. I don't get it,” he said. “I thought that once we went to overtime we are even, but I guess I was wrong.”