(JTA) — David Blatt, the Israeli American who was fired as head coach of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers during the season, will accept a championship ring from the team.
Blatt was let go in January, halfway through the 2015-16 season. Under Blatt’s successor, Tyronn Lue, the Cavs became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win the crown, defeating the Golden State Warriors.
“[Cleveland] offered and I graciously accepted because they presented it to me in a way that was very respectful,” Blatt told European sports reporter David Pick on Tuesday. “The Cavaliers wanted to give me a ring because the organization felt that I contributed to the championship. It’s not my championship, I recognize that, but I also feel that I did something there, and I graciously accepted because it was a gracious offer on their part. The big thing for me was that I felt that they felt that it was earned, not given, therefore I was happy to accept.”
The Cavs players will receive their rings ahead of their home opener against the New York Knicks on Oct. 25. Majority owner Dan Gilbert, who is Jewish, reportedly has purchased championship rings for more than 1,000 employees of the Cavs franchise, including security, vendors and janitors.
On Tuesday, Blatt returned to Israel to face his former team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, which he coached before joining the Cavs, as head coach of the Turkish club Darussafaka Dogus. The Turkish club defeated Maccabi.
At the time of Blatt’s dismissal by the Cavaliers, the team had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Some claimed the team’s superstar, LeBron James, undermined the coach.
Blatt had led the Cavs to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Warriors in six games.
In a season and a half at the helm, Blatt guided the Cavaliers to an 83-40 record; his .675 winning percentage was the best of any coach in franchise history.