Thanks to Blatt, Maccabi Tel Aviv is Barcelona Bound

American born David Blatt, coach of Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv basketball team, credited with recent success.

Published: April 9th 2011
in News » Israel

David Blatt is the current coach of Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv basketball team

The Final-Four


After dropping the all important first game in their quarter final series against Caja Laboral of Vitoria, Spain, the Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv basketball team came back strong to sweep the next three games in the series, making the team one of the four best in Europe.


The semifinal will take place in Barcelona; with Maccabi facing Real Madrid as it hopes to recapture the Euroleague Championship.


One man credited for much of Maccabi's success is their American-Israeli coach, David Blatt. After years of disappointments many experts atrribute Blatt's creativity, passion and team-building talents for taking Maccabi back to the lofty heights of the Final Four.


"You can take a person out of America, but you can’t take America out of a person," said Blatt in a recent interview with the Israeli website NRG. Indeed, his personality, accent and relatively "cool" qualities make Blatt a breath of fresh air on the Israeli sports landscape.


Born in 1959 in Boston, Blatt played basketball in high school and later at Princeton University from 1977 to 1981. In 1981 Blatt played for the United States in the Maccabiah Games and was part of a gold medal-winning team.


The Maccabiah experience deeply affected Blatt and strengthened his Jewish identity, resulting in the then 22-year-old making aliyah. Immediately an Israeli citizen, Blatt played basketball in the Israeli Super League from 1981 to 1993.


In 1986, at the age of 27 and still playing, Blatt volunteered in the Israeli Defence Forces. He served for one year on a military base near Jerusalem. "It was one of the things that I connected with, and made me feel close to Israel," Blatt said in a recent interview.


In 1993 Blatt was wounded, ending his playing career but kick-starting his coaching career. He began as an assistant coach for a Galilee team, Hapoel Galil Elyon. The promising young coach was very successful in his new career, winning Coach of the Year honours in the 1996-1997 season.


From 2000 to 2004, Blatt was the assistant coach to Pini Gershon, considered the "brain" of the team, and recruited foreign players including ex-Toronto Raptors Anthony Parker and Maceo Baston to Maccabi.


Blatt is also credited with implementing Maccabi’s highly regard defensive tactics, which he took with him from his US college days.


In 2004, Blatt took a break from hectic Maccabi and moved to Russia where he signed on as head coach of Dynamo Saint Petersburg and won the FIBA Euro Cup championship and another Coach of the Year honour. Blatt has also coached the Russian national basketball team, with which he won the EuroBasket in 2007.


"I came from a good basketball school,” Blatt said during his NRG interview. “In school and in college I was lucky to have learned from great coaches. Generally I think I was one of those who knew to absorb and I learned from all of them, from my better coaches and from my least good coaches. I have my philosophy and my way as a coach and as a person. I am open enough to learn and to accept things, to hear and to compare with my own opinion, if I have one, and decide which to use".


Clearly, the American basketball landscape’s loss, was Israel’s gain.

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