Courtesy of Princeton Athletic Communications
Photo courtesy of Cleveland Cavaliers
CLEVELAND -- Following a long, successful run as a coach overseas, Princeton men's basketball alumnus David Blatt '81 has followed his professional career back to this side of the Atlantic.
Blatt has agreed to become the head of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the organization announced Friday, June 20. Blatt becomes the second Princeton alumnus as an active coach in the NBA, joining assistant coach Armond Hill '85 of the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I am so happy for Dave," Princeton head coach and fellow alumnus Mitch Henderson '98 said. "He has had success at so many different levels of the professional ranks and of course in the Olympics too. This is such a natural move for him to the NBA and for the Cavs, and I think his commitment to the development of his players will allow him to see similar success in Cleveland. As a Princeton basketball alum and coach, I'm very proud to see a former Tiger as a head coach in the NBA. We will be pulling hard for the Cavaliers here in Princeton."
In the run-up to the Cavaliers' announcement, the Cleveland Plain Dealer talked with Blatt's and Princeton's former head coach, Naismith Hall of Famer Pete Carril.
Blatt is the first Tiger alum to serve as an NBA head coach since Butch van Breda Kolff '45 finished his nine-season NBA head coaching career with the New Orleans Jazz in 1977. The move makes Princeton one of just four schools with alumni as current head coaches in both the NBA and NFL, with Blatt alongside Jason Garrett '89 of the Dallas Cowboys. The other schools are Virginia (Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks and Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns), Minnesota (Flip Saunders, Minnesota Timberwolves and Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears) and California (Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets and Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers).
Princeton also now has two of the four Ivy League alumni as current head coaches in the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL, with Garrett and Blatt joining Brown's Bill O'Brien (NFL, Houston Texans) and Dartmouth's Brad Ausmus (MLB, Detroit Tigers).
The role will be Blatt's first coaching position with an NBA team after spending the last 20 years coaching in Israel, Italy, Turkey and Russia both with professional clubs and at the national-team level with Russia. Most recently, Blatt coached at Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel for the last four seasons, winning three Israeli league titles in four league-final appearances and winning the Israeli Cup, an in-season single-elimination tournament among Israeli league teams, in all four seasons. Outside of Israel, Blatt guided Maccabi Tel Aviv to the 2014 Euroleague title, beating Real Madrid last month for the club's first such championship since 2005. Maccabi also made the 2011 Euroleague final and two Euroleague quarterfinal rounds under Blatt.
Two years ago, Blatt guided the Russian national team to a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games, Russia's first Olympic men's basketball medal in the post-Soviet era.
With the Cavaliers, Blatt will inherit a roster headed by New Jersey native Kyrie Irving, who averaged a team-best 20.8 points and 6.1 assists in his third pro season. Irving played against Princeton in his only season at Duke, scoring 17 points in the season opener in November 2010. The Cavaliers also have the No. 1 pick in next Thursday's NBA Draft, the team's third in the last four years in a haul that brought Irving (2011) and UNLV's Anthony Bennett (2013).