David Blatt has been under a lot of pressure as a rookie head coach tasked with moulding LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, he says that pressure is nothing compared to what he experienced during time coaching teams in Europe.
In late June, the Cavs shocked the NBA world when they hired Blatt. While Blatt had earned respect for his success on the other side of the Atlantic, he had no NBA experience and had spent the last 30 years playing and coaching in Europe.
At the time, there was little pressure on Blatt as the Cavs were on their third coach in three years, lacked an identity beyond a seemingly ball-hogging point guard, and had not made the playoffs since LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
But three weeks later, James decided to come home followed by the Cavs trading for Kevin Love. Suddenly there was immense pressure on the first-year coach to quickly mould a team many thought should instantly be a championship contender.
A rocky start didn’t help. At one point, the Cavs were 19-20, LeBron had been seen shoving Blatt, and the team’s GM had to explain that Blatt’s job was not in jeopardy before he had even reached his first All-Star break.
That’s a lot of pressure. But nothing compared to coaching the New York Yankees of Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team that has won 51 Israeli League championships.
At a recent sports dinner at the Shaw Jewish Community Center in Cleveland (via Marla Ridenour of Ohio.com), Blatt called Maccabi Tel Aviv, probably the most storied franchise outside of the United States” and explained that just winning was never enough.
“When we won by 25 people were screaming at me,” Blatt told the audience.
Blatt also recalled how at first he took the train to games and practices due to the traffic.
“Sitting on the train, people recognise you, everyone’s going to talk to you,” Blatt said. “Every two people have three opinions. I had to stop taking the train, wasting all that gas and suffering in traffic. I realised I couldn’t take it any more.”
Despite nearly losing the job at Maccabi in his first season because his team “lost a couple games,” he spent eight seasons with the club and won five Israeli League titles and six Israeli Cups.
So, while there is intense pressure on Blatt to succeed with LeBron and the Cavs, the pressure for Blatt is not new.
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