Behind former Israeli-League legendary basketball coach Ralph Klein, current and ex-coaches Pini Gershon, Tzvika Sherf, Brad Greenberg, Oded Katash, and Muli Katzurin are among the list for Israel's All-Time Most Winning Coaches.
However, in a race for the All-Time No. 1 seeded coach from a percentage viewpoint, Klien, with 76.3%, comes in second after Maccabi Tel Aviv's prime possession -- head coach David Blatt.
Blatt, 54, the oldest among the Euroleague Final Four competing coaches with a 76.7% winning percentage over 262 domestic competition appearances.
After exceeding all Euro-expectations and outperforming varsity powerhouse CSKA Moscow in the semifinals of Europe's most elite competition, Blatt is 40 minutes and one victory away from leading one of Maccabi's greatest underdog teams to a European title.
In honor of tonight's showdown at the Mediolanum Forum against Euroleague winning-favorites Real Madrid, Eurobasket caught up with coach Blatt for an unorthodox one-on-one.
What's your daily schedule on game-day?
06:00-07:00 - "When playing in the Euroleague I normally wake up between six to seven AM, naturally, without an alarm clock. I take one of my kids to school and desperately battle the endless traffic leading to Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. It's a nightmare."
08:00-12:00 - "Between 08:30-09:00, depending on traffic I'd arrive at the arena and start analyzing game-film with the coaching staff until the players arrive for practice."
12:00-17:00 - "Following practice we all attend a team lunch and from there the players and staff fall out their separate ways. I return to Nokia Arena for a little more game preparation and rest in our terrible 'coach's room'. Don't get me wrong, in terms of respect and professionalism Maccabi are the best in Europe. However, when it comes to staff treatment? Maccabi are among the lower ranked teams in Europe. You've seen our coach's room, you've been inside. You know what I'm talking about. We're four coaches (Guy Goodes, Alon Stein, Nikola Vujcic and Blatt) in a pit with no window, no air, underground, and with a very little hope."
17:00-19:00 - "After my nap I'd get a 90 minutes workout in, shower, and go over some final touches before tip-off."
19:00-21:00 - "Roughly two hours before game-time, when people start rolling in, I suffer from anxiety because our coach's room turns into the Grand Central Station. Every possible person in the world finds a reason to pass by our pit. It's not always convenient, but it's part the Maccabi experience. Again, with regards to respect and professionalism - Maccabi are No. 1. Still, maintenance isn't their strong side and it's my business to note why the glass is not full."
Game-03:30 - "After the game I have 101 responsibilities, whether it's to media, management, players, sponsors and the random requests by everybody on the planet. You don't know where it begins and can't imagine where it will end, but it's relatively pleasant because when at home with normally win. When the arena clears out I relax and check up on the other Euroleague games and head home after 01:00. It's much harder for me to sleep after games rather then before because of the adrenalin rush, so I'll probably fall asleep between 03:00-03:30."
There's an assumption that with previous Maccabi coaches, management were easy to pull the trigger. True?
"I disagree. I believe things at Maccabi have changed and the management and ownership have developed patience and a long term perspective. It might have been true in the past, but things have changed for the better."
What are your weaknesses?
"That's a job interview question. Normally you would expect of me to turn my weaknesses into an advantage. I wish I was able to sleep better. I'd come to work more energized."
What do you need to improve as a coach?
"There's a special saying by John Wooden that I use quite often. 'It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.' There are many aspects in the game I can improve on, it's a process that only ends when I retire."
When did you last cry?
"They will laugh at me at home, but I'm not a cryer. It's hard for me to cry. I cry inside. Normally what gets me choked up are my kids."
What are topics of conversation at a Blatt dinner table?
"A lot of basketball. We're a family of sports before anything. Even those who didn't play the game were always around players. Basketball isn't the only topic of conversation but definitely the most popular one.
Is there room for a foreign coach at Maccabi?
"To bring a rookie coach, a first timer, to Maccabi is very difficult. Even for me, when I coached Maccabi for the first time it was very tough and I came from within the system after being an assistant during one of the greatest eras in the history of the organization. Being an Israeli is an advantage when coaching Maccabi because this club is part of the Israeli society and you have to breath that society and live it in order to succeed. There's a special saying in Hebrew, 'everyone has a replacement.' Would it be easy finding one for me? I'm not sure. Not sure at all."
How do you scout players?
"I'll tell you a very special story about Nate Huffman. At the time, (then Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon) asked me to watch film on Croatian Velimir Perasovic who played for Spanish Fuenlabrada. We didn't have DVD's or stuff like that. I was using old A-Tracks for scouting. So I'm watching the game and I see this white dude whom I've never heard of doing pretty amazing stuff. I immediately called Pini and said, 'listen, Perasovic is good but I'm telling you we have to sign this white guy nobody ever heard of by the name of Nate Huffman.' Pini responds saying, 'who? What's a Huffman?' I told him to watch the tape. An hour and a half later we completed one biggest steals in European basketball history. Nowadays scouting is different. You have scouts, management personnel with their own opinions and another million different advisors, it's really complicated."
What was your most heartbreaking loss?
"I've had many disappointments and tough loses. The one game I can't seem to let go of, the one that is hardest for me to swallow, was last year's Israeli-League championship game against Maccabi Haifa. You need to understand that this was my first-ever playoffs loss. I was 28-0 in my career in the Israeli playoffs. Man, that was a tough loss."
What was your greatest victory while coaching Maccabi?
"There's a very specific game that people don't really talk about. It was during my first coaching season at Maccabi. We had a really tough season but we came one game away from qualifying got the Euroleague Final Four. Our last game, which we had to win by five-or-more point to advance was in Spain against Vitoria, then Tau Ceramica. The Vitoria team we lost to twice this season is nothing compared to Tau's 2002 squad. That was their All-Time Dream Team. They had Jose Calderon, Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Fabricio Oberto, and Elmer Bennett. We got to Vitoria and blew them out by 29 points, 94-65. It was the most unforgettable game I ever coached. I'll never forget it."
Which player was most difficult to see leave Maccabi?
"I'm sorry we couldn't have kept Richard Hendrix. Keith Langford was outstanding, Jeremy Pargo was great, but what hurt me most, what caused me the most pain as a coach was the injury for Doron Perkins and that fact that we couldn't keep him. Doron was our Most Valuable Player. Not Sofo Schortsanitis, not Hednrix, nor were Chuck Edison or Pargo -- Perkins was one of the most fearless, greatest warriors and biggest winners I ever coached. What happened to him was a tragedy. If he hadn't gotten injured we would've won the 2011 Euroleague championship. I guarantee it. He was our defensive matchup for Dimitris Diamantidis. Perkins was a killer and I'm still hurting over his injury."
What are your thoughts on rumors linking you to the NBA?
"Because I have one of greatest position in the world, I don't eat sleep or breath the NBA. This could change in the near future, but the NBA is very much an issue of timing and connections. There are many good coaches in the United States so nobody is waiting at my front door asking me to become a coach or an assistant in the NBA. On the other hand, I'm not really chasing it either, but that could change in about a month."
Where do you see yourself coaching first: in the NBA or the Israeli national-team?
"In the NBA."
Which players do you regret not coaching?
"That's a good question. Arvydas Sabonis, Trajan Langdon, Luis Scola and Tyus Edney."
Who throughout history would you choose to dine with?
"Mahatma Gandhi. I'd like to know how he brought so many people with hate and disrespect together. From the basketball world? I would kill to sit at Red Auerbach's Chinese restaurant in Washington. He would sit with a close circle of people and I'd love to be part of that parliament."
Brad Wanamaker leads Darussafaka past Real Madrid - 2 days ago
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Real Madrid - Darussafaka 80:84 Darussafaka evened EuroLeague quarterfinal series versus Real Madrid. The David Blatt's team grabbed a road win in Game 2 behind 21 points from Brad Wanamaker (193-G-89, college: Pittsburgh). Darussafaka stayed in front throughout the first half. The visitors eked out a 22:19 advantage after ten minutes. They controlled the tempo in the second period. Darussafaka enjoyed a 44:38 halftime advantage. However Real Madrid shifted the gear in the third term. T... [read more]
Real Madrid - Darussafaka 80:84
Darussafaka evened EuroLeague quarterfinal series versus Real Madrid. The David Blatt's team grabbed a road win in Game 2 behind 21 points from Brad Wanamaker (193-G-89, college: Pittsburgh). Darussafaka stayed in front throughout the first half. The visitors eked out a 22:19 advantage after ten minutes. They controlled the tempo in the second period. Darussafaka enjoyed a 44:38 halftime advantage. However Real Madrid shifted the gear in the third term. The hosts unloaded 30 points to take a 2-point lead before the fourth frame 68:66. Darussafaka regained the lead late in regulation then Will Clyburn and Brad Wanamaker sank four straight free throws to seal the win for the visitors. Scottie Wilbekin (188-G-93, college: Florida) and Ante Zizic (210-F/C-97, agency: BeoBasket) had 17 points apiece for the winners. Sergio Llull (190-SG-87) replied with 22 points for Real Madrid. Gustavo Ayon (207-C/F-85, college: San Jose St.) chipped in 16 points in the loss.
Anadolu Efes steal victory in Piraeus, draw level with Olympiacos - 2 days ago
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Olympiacos - Anadolu Efes 71:73 Anadolu Efes eked out a tough road win over Olympiacos in the second game of the quarterfinal series. Alex Kirk (211-C-91, college: N.Mexico, agency: Pensack Sports) came up with a go-ahead bucket inside the final minute of regulation to propel the Turkish team to the victory. Bryant Dunston (203-C-86) produced 16 points for the winners. Anadolu Efes claimed a narrow 23:22 lead after the first period. Olympiacos spurred ahead in the second term. The Pirae... [read more]
Olympiacos - Anadolu Efes 71:73
Anadolu Efes eked out a tough road win over Olympiacos in the second game of the quarterfinal series. Alex Kirk (211-C-91, college: N.Mexico, agency: Pensack Sports) came up with a go-ahead bucket inside the final minute of regulation to propel the Turkish team to the victory. Bryant Dunston (203-C-86) produced 16 points for the winners. Anadolu Efes claimed a narrow 23:22 lead after the first period. Olympiacos spurred ahead in the second term. The Piraeus side grabbed a 44:37 halftime lead. Olympiacos stayed in front throughout low-scoring third period. The hosts entered the final period up by three points 54:51. The lead changed hands several times throughout intense fourth frame. But Alex Kirk came up for Anadolu Efes late in the game and led the visitors to the victory. Tyler Honeycutt (203-F-90, college: UCLA) posted 15 points and 9 rebounds, while Jayson Granger (189-G-89) had 9 points in the win. Georgios Printezis (204-PF-85, agency: Octagon Europe) and Vassilis Spanoulis (193-SG-82, agency: BeoBasket) responded with 20 points each for Olympiacos.
CSKA withhold Baskonia surge, snatch tough win in Game 2 - 3 days ago
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CSKA - Baskonia 84:82 CSKA are now 2-0 up on Baskonia in the quarterfinal series. CSKA survived another late scare against the Basque team and secured the second straight victory in the playoffs. Kyle Hines (198-F/C-86, agency: BeoBasket) got an offensive rebound and followed it with two free throws with a second left in regulation to propel the Moscow side to the win. Milos Teodosic (195-PG-87) finished with 16 points and 8 assists for the hosts. CSKA eked out a 21:20 lead ten minutes... [read more]
CSKA - Baskonia 84:82
CSKA are now 2-0 up on Baskonia in the quarterfinal series. CSKA survived another late scare against the Basque team and secured the second straight victory in the playoffs. Kyle Hines (198-F/C-86, agency: BeoBasket) got an offensive rebound and followed it with two free throws with a second left in regulation to propel the Moscow side to the win. Milos Teodosic (195-PG-87) finished with 16 points and 8 assists for the hosts. CSKA eked out a 21:20 lead ten minutes into the game. The hosts extended the gap in the second term. CSKA secured a 40:35 halftime advantage. The home side unleashed 29 points in the third term to boost the lead to double digits. But Baskonia refused to give in. The Basque team clawed their way back into the game as Rodrigue Beaubois (185-G-88) tied things up at 82 with a three-pointer. But Kyle Hines came up with a decisive offensive board in the next CSKA possession and sealed the victory for the hosts. Kyle Hines and Nando De Colo (196-SG-87) accounted for 10 points each in the win. Rodrigue Beaubois responded with 21 points for Baskonia. Chase Budinger (201-SF-88, college: Arizona) had 12 points in the loss.
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