There was a lot of hemming and hawing about Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt this season. Critics openly wondered whether he was qualified to coach in the NBA, despite being a highly decorated coach overseas. And all season long, sports scribes spilled gallons of ink speculating about a disconnect between him and his star player, LeBron James.
They wondered whether he could effectively manage big personalities and over-inflated egos. They nitpicked and magnified every perceived undermining of his authority. And right up until he helped lead a depleted Cavs team all the way to the NBA Finals and to within two games of the Larry O’Brien trophy, many still wondered whether he’d even have a job next season.
For now, at least, it appears his job is safe, and now that the season is over and the Cavs have effectively retained most their personnel from last season, Blatt has opened up about the roller-coaster ride that was his rookie year as a head coach in the NBA. Here’s more from Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
“When I came to the NBA I was under the impression that this was going to be a breeze,” Blatt said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years at the highest level in Europe. I coached in the national-team environment, coached professional teams, coached Euroleague teams and I thought I thought I knew basketball and I thought I knew how to coach. Which, in my mind, I did.
“But I realized that when I came over here it was a very, very different game with a whole new set of problems and a whole slew of things to deal with inside and outside of the game.”
To be sure, there were times when the pressure got to him. He very nearly pulled a few high-profile boners that almost definitely would have cost him his job and sabotaged the Cavs’ chances of even competing for the title, such as attempting to call a timeout that he didn’t have and trying to draw up a game-winning play that had someone not named LeBron James taking the final shot.
But he also showed glimpses of why he’s been so successful for so many years as a professional coach. His savvy, on-the-fly decision-making (particularly in regard to defensive adjustments) turned the NBA Finals into a chess match that could have gone either way during the first four games of the series.
So it’ll be interesting to see what the Cavs are capable of next season if they can stay healthy and have a returning head coach who’s already been through a baptism-by-fire during his first NBA go-around.
(Via The Associated Press)