David Blatt has a long and storied career as a basketball coach. David Blatt has a long and storied career as a basketball coach. David Blatt has a long and storied career as a basketball coach. (Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

Knicks hire legendary Israeli coach as a consultant

After retiring earlier this year with an MS diagnosis, David Blatt is returning to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan first retired from the NBA, it took him about a season to return to the sport he loved. For Coach David Blatt, his retirement was even shorter. Blatt, who resigned in August as head coach of the Greek Olympiacos team, will now be working for the New York Knicks.

The Knicks announced on Wednesday that they have hired Blatt, who has been involved in professional basketball for more than 40 years, to be a consultant for the team. "David Blatt is a great basketball mind, and we look forward to adding him to the organization," reads a statement from Steve Mills, the team's president, and Scott Perry, the general manager. In this new role, Blatt will help identify talent in the G League, NBA's version of the minors, as well as with international scouting.

“I look forward to the next step in my career as I officially retire from coaching and pursue other opportunities in basketball,” Blatt said. “I’ve long been intrigued by working in a front office and thank Steve and Scott for the opportunity to be a resource to the basketball operations staff.”

Blatt, a Boston native, has played basketball for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he listened to the games of his beloved Celtics on the radio and idolized the legendary Bill Russell. As a teenager, after school each day, he perfected the art of the dribble in countless hours of practice. He used those skills as a point guard, first as captain of the Princeton University basketball team and later in a decade of professional play in Israel. He eventually went on to a highly regarded career as a coach. He participated in two Olympics. He took Maccabi Tel Aviv to the EuroLeague championships and was named Coach of the Year. He led LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals.

But all of that was thrown into upheaval this summer when the 60-year-old Blatt revealed he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Blatt, a man who proved himself as always being able to see several moves ahead, was left directionless. "At first, it's obviously disturbing and frightening because, like most MS patients, you don't really know what it is. It's not altogether easy to digest at first," he told From The Grapevine in an interview this fall. "My first thought was, of course, to educate myself and to become more educated on what I was dealing with. Then look for ways that I could No. 1, deal with it, and No. 2, move forward with the necessary steps and possible treatments that I could go through." He has been undergoing a regular infusion of a drug called Ocrevus, which is helping with his leg weakness and balance issues.

Blatt's hiring comes at just the right time, as the Knicks can use all the extra assistance they can get. Following a 17-65 league-worst season in 2018-2019, the team is currently 6-21 and again at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The head coach, David Fizdale, was fired earlier this month and replaced by interim head coach Mike Miller. The addition of Blatt, who brings decades of experience to the position, is part of an overall effort to turn the team around. It should help that Mills and Blatt already have a working relationship, as they played together at Princeton University.

As for Blatt, he's taking it all in stride. "Life throws different things at you, and no one guarantees you anything," he told us back in October. "The question is what do you do with the cards that you're dealt, or the situations that you're in. How do you turn that into a positive, or into a way that can, at the very least, help others? That way there's certainly some reward in all of this, and that's the way I'm looking to take it."

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Knicks hire legendary Israeli coach as a consultant
After retiring earlier this year with an MS diagnosis, David Blatt is returning to the NBA.