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Messina to lead Italy at FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament
ROME (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Ettore Messina will coach Italy for the second time in his career next summer and try to lead the Azzurri into the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Italy's Basketball Federation (FIP) announced on Thursday night that Messina, who held the national team reins from 1992-97, will be at the helm when Italy compete at one of the three six-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
If Italy win an OQT, Messina will coach the team in Brazil.
"I am honored and proud to have the opportunity to return to wear the Azzurri colors," Messina said in a statement issued by the FIP.
"I hope I can give a hand to our players in order to reach such an important aim for us and especially for the many fans that have followed with enthusiasm at the last EuroBasket."
Simone Pianigiani coached Italy at a third straight EuroBasket this summer.
His team very nearly beat Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals but lost after overtime.
Pianigiani's team bounced back and beat the Czech Republic, 85-70, to clinch sixth-place finish and a spot in an OQT.
FIP president Giovanni Petrucci is excited about the return of Messina, who is regarded as one of the top coaches in Europe.
"It's as though we never left each other because our human rapport has continued throughout the years," Petrucci said.
"Our dream of going to the Olympics is still alive and now, thanks to the quality of one of the best coaches in the world, we have more reason to be confident."
Alessandro Gentile (ITA) will be at an OQT with the Azzurri
Petrucci was president of the federation during Messina's first spell before leaving to become the president of CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) in 1999.
He held the CONI role until 2012 and then returned to the helm of the FIP.
Messina, who is working in his second season as an assistant coach to San Antonio Spurs boss Gregg Popovich in the NBA, led Italy to a runners-up finish at EuroBasket 1997 in Barcelona.
He hit the heights as a club coach in Italy with Virtus Bologna and Benetton Treviso before leaving for a successful spell with CSKA Moscow.
Messina also led Real Madrid for one and a half seasons and again, CSKA Moscow, from 2012-14.
After Messina's departure as Italy coach, the country did have success.
Bogdan Tanjevic took over and immediately steered the Azzurri to the title at EuroBasket 1999 in France.
The Italians then made a surprising run to the Final of the 2004 Olympics before losing to Argentina.
Italy have not reached the podium of a major event since.
The FIP said earlier this week that Pianigiani is to continue with Italy as technical supervisor for all national teams, and of the federal technical centers, "carrying on the fulfillment of the projects that have created excellence and results."
Messina will be unveiled to the Italian media in the new year.