Know the Coach Prospect: David Blatt

David Ramos

Steve Kerr gave Phil Jackson the slip, and now the Knicks need a new dance partner. Herein I will don my prognostication helmet and try to open up discussion on the early names getting bandied about as potential candidates.

About This Mope:

David Blatt was born in Boston, under the sign of Taurus. He is the human embodiment of a Barry McGee character. He was a point guard at Princeton. Played 12 years of professional ball, basically all in Israel, then went on to coach and help recruit foreign players (Americans) to Israel. He has won practically every thing a coach can win in Israel, Euroleague, FIBA, whatever. You name it, and he's probably got it.

Measurements:

This dude measures up. Wherever he goes, things get done. Just won the Euroleague championship as a heavy underdog. Three Israeli coach of the year honors. Five Israeli Cup championships. Four Israeli League Championships. Coach of the Year in the Russian Super League. FIBA Euro Challenge Championship. Italian League and Cup Champ. Adriatic League Champ. I mean, seriously, the guy is a proven commodity.

What's that you say? Ah yes, but that was all with lesser talent, and against lesser talent. This is the NBA! America! Thats what you say, and you know what? You're right. How the hell does this doofus measure up FOR REAL!?! Lets go straight to the Coach Woody Not Just Sitting Here Coaching Standpoint Challenge.

...calculating... ...calculating... ...calculating...

WHOA!

...recalculating... ...recalculating... ...recalculating...

Fair enough, Woody. You are the most pathetic battler, possibly ever. Take it easy out there on your endless vacation. Blatt just fuckin' smoked you, pally.

Who has coached him:

A very basic timeline of the coaches he's played or studied under since college.

Who he has coached:

Blatt's been around the Israeli and Euroleague basketball circuit. Including coaching for Maccabi Tel Aviv (they de bezt, alweyz de bezt) and the Russian National Team (Kirilenko, Mozgov, Shved). He coached Anthony Parker back into the NBA. Names don't exactly get the point across, but let it be known, that he has coached winning teams, almost exclusively. And thats the point of the game.

Here's a few Maccabi games, and one quarter by quarter game, sans fourth (wasn't uploaded). I don't speak or read Hebrew or Spanish (I believe thats what I heard), so a lot of this is lost on me. What I do know is what I see on the floor. Lots of pace and space, a major part of the American game these days, which is basically the name of the game overseas.

From what I can gather Blatt's teams run a lot through a horns offense. Which, if you don't know, puts two guys- one on either- high post (witch's nipple), two guys in opposite corner/wings and starts with the ball handler at the top of the key. Wamp, thats as basic as you'll see it  diagrammed (ignoring the proposed action). It is not a triangle offense, but it does revolve around cerebral players creating space with passing, smart cutting and good footwork. Certainly a proprietor of the Triangle has respect for this, a very Spurs-y set of offensive goals. Everybody needs touches to make this kitten purr. Everyone needs to fill the open spaces that relate to their skill set, and everyone must become a threat when they have the ball.

Maccabi also used some "1-4 low" sets to initiate half court offense. This play starts with a high screen and roll. Meanwhile sending a shooter off a baseline screen along with the "top" action. This essentially inverts the floor balance. Making it hard to help at the rim- starting with four on the baseline, and then sliding  four out to the perimeter in one sweeping action. When Maccabi is just playing on instinct, as opposed to sets, they often try to pick on size mismatches with the utterly massive Sofoklis Schortsanitis (a name I just came dangerously close to spelling correctly at first crack).

Here we have a nice full game of Russia vs. Lithuania, from London 2012. From this we can see the movement on offense is constant, if a bit jagged, in the half court (lots of size, no shooters, one ball handler). Blatt, as noted by the announcers, gets frustrated in one sequence in the middle of the second quarter where Alexey Shved shoots on three consecutive possessions without passing. The player movement was still evident. Shved got multiple screens, and balance moved from side to side, if not the ball. Shortly thereafter, the announcers called a wedgie, "jammed in the flange". They did it so pompously too. Yea, jammed in the flange, thats clearly what happened there.
About 41 minutes in we see inside a Blatt huddle, where he talks about when and how to switch on a screen. It was said like- this is not what we do, so do it here as a tactic. It was strange. Why not switch everything, coach? And then my girlfriend called Darius Songaila "Dracula?". Now she's complaining about 'straw head... Pachinko' (Kirilenko). She said, "I hate his stringy hair". I guess I have to turn this crap off.

What do the talking heads think:

They think he's a great coach, and they're right. Sadly, they don't think he has a good chance to make the leap. He is worth talking about, though, and there is plenty of talk.

What do the amateur blog dorks think:

This is the guy. There is no one else. What did Steve Kerr get? Five years, 25 million? I think we should give him six years, 36 million. YO YO YO YO YO GO IN SOOOOOON!!!!!!! J3w Tang Killa B33S We oN a Sw4RMMMMM!!!

Random Red Flag:

In college, one of his  teammates was Dolan's buddy, Steve "Ass Pony" Mills. They were moderately successful, making the NCAA tournament twice.

The Clyde Factor:

"Daverd. Blatt."

"Blatt will have them running all practice, over these blunders."

"Tip of the hat, to Blatt, with a spectacular coaching performance."

Knick Knacks

There's not too much connection, that I could uncover, beyond the Steve Mills association. I guess in a roundabout way we can consider a knick knack like- he recruited Anthony Parker out of the NBA, to Israel, then coached him up good. Then Parker returned to the NBA and was just one of those guys the Knicks were completely unable to stop in crucial moments.

The only other thing I can imagine is the amount of money he'd make in bagel endorsements. Not certain that counts, but certainly its worth considering. Also worth noting, is how insanely jealous I'd be of such an endorsement.

"Blatt" and "Glatt" puns would be everywhere.

Takeaway:

Blatt has gotten hard boiled results everywhere he's coached, and will continue to do so no matter where he is. He has fortified his reputation as one of the top coaches in the Euroleagues, and that may ultimately be the thing that makes some Euroleague team believe that he can take their team over the top. NBA teams often times get a little too boys clubby, and may be hard pressed to let some foreigner come in and take over.

Final Thoughts:

Blatt once stepped aside (as head coach, remained as an assistant) to let Pini Gershon take the reins for a few years, before reclaiming the seat and steering Maccabi to their most recent successes. That type of selflessness strikes me as something Phil Jackson might be intrigued by. Obviously Phil wants principles of the triangle at play, but Steve Kerr wasn't going to just relay the notes Phil gave him, and let the players figure out what he meant. Kerr wanted to run and shoot lots of threes, while sliding in principles of a triangle offense to work through pet plays. Its all about balance, surely the Zen Master sees that.

One of my "sources" for this was Chris Sheridan's podcast, and he has a penchant for making an effort to say things that are loosely bat shit, just to hope they come true. He also does not directly connect any dots. Just suggests that this would be a good match, and Phil Jackson ought to pay attention. While I sort of admire that, its ultimately just unreliable and like his opinion, man.

Blatt would probably come back to the states, and be universally adored if he was in New York. My guess, however, is that he will get lowballed by an NBA teams thinking they deserve respect, when clearly it should be the other way around. The guy has a price in mind, and somebody will give it to him. Phil Jackson might not be willing to go outside of his preference for a Triangle guy, whom he can mold in his image.  Wherever Blatt ends up, he will certainly find his way toward success.

Steve Mills was his teammate in college, though. And James Dolan is still Phil Jackson's boss, though. There's a chance in that red flag, somewhere. Time will tell.

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