(JNS.org) David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and previously the coach of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise, on Friday was fired by the Cavaliers after less than two seasons in the role.
Blatt, 56, grew up in Framingham, Mass., and played college basketball at Princeton University. Following his college career, he played professionally in Israel for more than a decade, then coached several professional teams in Europe before becoming Maccabi Tel Aviv’s coach in 2010. He led Maccabi to a European league championship in 2014, his final season coaching the team, before guiding the Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, 4 games to 2, and entered this season with high expectations—particularly with franchise cornerstone and Ohio native LeBron James aiming to end the city of Cleveland’s 51-year championship drought in the major American professional sports leagues. The Cavaliers had the top record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference at the time of Blatt’s firing, but according to ESPN, Blatt had lost the support of the team’s locker room over the past month, compounded by a Jan. 18 blowout loss at home in a Finals rematch with the Warriors.
Rabbi Yossi Marozov, executive director of the Friendship Circle of Cleveland, told the Cleveland Jewish News he was shocked to hear the news about Blatt. “If greatness is qualified by character, coach Blatt is a champion,” Marozov said.