By Robert Gluck/JNS.org
Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Coming off guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, northeast Ohio native James rocked the NBA universe by leaving the Miami Heat for Cleveland, where he had spent his first seven seasons in the league.
Blatt, 55, grew up in Framingham, Mass., listening to the raspy radio voice of Boston Celtics’ announcer Johnny Most. During his sophomore year at Princeton University, where he played for legendary hoops coach Pete Carril and majored in English literature, Blatt was recruited to play for a basketball team at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel in Israel over the summer.
“I really had not had designs on making aliyah growing up or well into my college experience, but I was invited to spend a summer in Israel by a nice gentlemen and a coach in Israel who saw me play with Princeton, and I fell in love with Israel,” Blatt said in an interview with JNS.org. “That was a life-changing experience because I ended up spending 33 years there.”
The six-week kibbutz experience had “an influence on helping me to enter into Israeli society and life,” recalled Blatt.
“Beyond that I can tell you that some elements of the communal living [on kibbutzim] certainly can be found in the dynamics of teams sports, most importantly that all should work for the common good, and the better we do as a unit, the more the individual will benefit,” he said.
Blatt, who coached the Russian national basketball team to a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, is known as an excellent communicator who gets the best out of his players and teams. At a press conference introducing the new coach, Cavaliers’ General Manager David Griffin called Blatt “an authentic leader.” Might Jewish values be the secret to his success?
“The lessons of Judaism are life lessons to begin with,” Blatt told JNS.org. “Without question, the values, the morals, and the ethics that I’ve taken from my Jewish upbringing have greatly influenced me in every walk of my life. Above all, the basic respect for people, accepting people for who they are, and what they are, is a guiding force in all of my relationships and all forms of communication.”
Additionally, Blatt credits his parents for instilling in him the right attitudes and habits.
Click photo to download. Caption: Coach David Blatt. Credit: Christopher Johnson via Wikimedia Commons.
“I was born to two very intelligent parents,” he said. “The best things they taught me were to read and …read more