(JNS.org) An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals.
The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community,” called Blatt “an Israeli-American role model.” On Tuesday night, Blatt’s Cavaliers completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They will face the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
“On behalf of all Israeli Americans in the United States, we congratulate David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the city of Cleveland on their thrilling victory as Eastern Conference champions of the NBA,” Shawn Evenhaim, the IAC’s chairman, said in a statement. “David is an Israeli-American success story—a true leader and role model who symbolizes our love for both Israel and the U.S.”
Blatt, 56, grew up in Framingham, Mass., and played college basketball at Princeton University. While at Princeton, he 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 last year. “That was a life-changing experience because I ended up spending 33 years there.”
In his final season before landing the Cavaliers’ head coaching job, Blatt coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team to a European league championship.