Europe’s Best Coach Is Coming To LA?

Teams have floated out the usual suspects when it comes to coaching. Mark Jackson has been a popular name for head coaching vacancies for a few years now. Kevin McHale was a semi-successful coach at Minnesota and is now back in the coaching game. Re-treads in coaching are commonplace and once you are in the club, it seems your name always comes up for the next coaching vacancy.

The random name that occasionally came up — especially in the wake of U.S. losses at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 World Championships — Italian basketball mind Ettore Messina.

Now, Messina is finally coming to the United States and making the jump to the NBA.

Mitja Viola of Off The Dribble reports Messina is close to joining Mike Brown’s staff in Los Angeles with the Lakers. After turning down offers from the Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets, Messina is going to bring his expertise and winning experience to the highest level of basketball.

Messina has won just about everything you can in European basketball. He has won three Euroleague titles and helped guide teams to several Euroleague semifinals.

Like Larry Brown, Messina is very well traveled.

He started his coaching career working at Tonino Zorzi when he was 16. He moved on then to Virtus Bologna where he won several Italian championships and coached a young Manu Ginobili. He then coached the Italian national team led by Marco Bellinelli that topped the U.S. national team in 2004 in the runup to the Olympics. Italy had one of the best teams in the world when Messina was coaching them.

He then moved on to Treviso, replacing Mike D’Antoni and again started racking up Italian league championships. From 2005-09, he led the CSKA Moscow teams that featured former Duke star Trajan Langdon and won two Euroleague titles. He made four Euroleague semifinals while coaching CSKA.

Most recently he has coached Madrid, again guiding them deep into the Euroleague.

You can see the winning track record Messina has had. Each time he had an opportunity in the NBA, it seemed like he was focused on winning. That has been a trademark of a lot of his decisions to move on.

“He has seemed to know when a team is close to the end of its cycle and when it’s a good time to move on to his next challenge,” Viola wrote.

“The reason? It’s always about motivation and energy. Players and coaches who have worked with him remember his strong and hard personality. From his point of view, the final result always comes first, and that requires discipline through the entire organization. He is prepared, and he always looks to optimize his result, especially when you talk about career and new challenges to achieve.”

Viola reports Messina is likely to be named a consultant to the head coach (sounds sort of like Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute) where he would have a role very similar to Tex Winter under Phil Jackson. Messina’s role would be to help and work with Brown to make “delicate adjustments.” He would not serve as a traditional assistant coach.

Again, this is most definitely Messina trying to get in right when a team is peaking and able to win — although the Lakers are not quite what they used to be even one year removed from back-to-back titles.

Messina may be a head coach at some time in the future. But he said he would like to make sure he can make it in the league as an assistant first. It will be interesting to see how the veteran players like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol take to Messina. He undoubtedly could be a great teacher to young players.

Messina has long been one of the best coaches in the world. And at long last we will see him in the NBA.

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About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily