INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers underwent a wide-ranging coaching search this offseason with some added pressure weighing on their decision.
Cleveland interviewed no less than eight candidates -- and even made an offer to Kentucky's John Calipari worth nearly $80 million to come on board -- all with the hopes of setting up the franchise to lure LeBron James back home as a free agent.
The Cavs finally settled on David Blatt, an NBA pioneer as the first head coach to come to the league with solely international coaching experience on his resume.
But it turns out that James had his mind set on coming back to Cleveland no matter who was calling the plays for Cleveland this season.
"Him being here, it wasn't part of my process of coming back," James said after practice Saturday night. "Obviously, I was excited once I made the decision to get to know him, get to know what he's about and it's been good so far."
Cleveland will open up its exhibition schedule Sunday against Blatt's former team, Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Blatt left Maccabi in June, having won both the Israeli League and Israeli Cup championships in 2014 and being named the league's coach of the year, capping a decorated career overseas lasting nearly three decades.
James said he first became aware of Blatt's accomplishments when Blatt coached the Russian national team to a gold medal over Spain in the FIBA EuroBasket 2007, but added that he feels like he can work with any coach regardless of how impressive or pedestrian their past might be.
"I'm coachable," James said. "I'm very coachable, so it never really mattered to me. I don't go into it saying I know it all. Every coach and every guy has his own system, has what he believes in. So, I'm a very coachable guy. I believe I can help as well. I have a high basketball IQ, as well, I think. But as far as picking a team or going somewhere because of a coach, it's never been my thing."
Along with Blatt and Calipari, the Cavs also interviewed Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry, Tyronn Lue, Adrian Griffin, Vinny Del Negro and Mark Price for the position. They ended up also hiring Lue as an associate head coach.
"I'm sure that [being the first European coach to run an NBA team] was a consideration on the part of the management and the ownership," Blatt said. "I know that back then I was a serious candidate, but probably the out-of-the-box candidate. But fortunately, they saw it fit to want to have me here and I'm hoping that I can justify that."
Blatt knows that getting the Cavs job makes him a trail blazer in the basketball coaching profession, but that is the least of his concerns as he tries to shape his new team during training camp.
"I think to a certain extent, I feel a responsibility recognizing that I spent 30 years of my life overseas and learned a lot of basketball overseas, came into contact with a lot of great people over there that helped me and taught me or competed with me and raised my level," Blatt said. "But really what I'm focused on is the here and now and how happy I am and how proud I am to coach this team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's really what's on my mind."
The NBA schedule-makers had reunions in mind when they set up the Cavs' preseason slate. Cleveland follows up its game against Blatt's former team in Maccabi Tel-Aviv with an exhibition against James' former squad, the Miami Heat, in Rio de Janeiro (Saturday, Oct. 11, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN).
"I think it's a good game for (Blatt)," James said. "It's a lot of special meaning going against his former team, for sure ... It's not much of an issue for me going up against Miami, I think. It's a preseason game. It's in Brazil so it's not really on an NBA floor, as well. But it gives us an opportunity to keep on continuing to broaden the game in a huge, worldwide aspect and it will be great for both teams."
Blatt said that his former team's style of play will mirror the Cavs' in some ways on Sunday, and vice versa.
"You never know where you're going until you know where you've been and I know where I've been," Blatt said. "I'm very respectful and appreciative and fond of the teams from which I came and from the kind of basketball from whence I came. So, from that standpoint, it's just a very, very good feeling.
"I know what kind of basketball we're going to see from Maccabi. I know what to expect. As far as our game is concerned, you'll see certain elements of the European style in our game, certainly. That's a good thing. But you'll also see a lot of great NBA basketball, which I hope will be a big part of our game."