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2021 Class of FIBA Hall of Fame: Ettore Messina

MIES (Switzerland) - Ettore Messina, the meticulous, details-oriented Italian coach famous for both spotting and nurturing young talent and also leading championship-winning teams, is being inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Messina, who led Italy's national team and a host of clubs in his famous career, is being enshrined with fellow coaching greats Tom Maher (Australia) and Chuck Daly (USA - posthumously) in the Class of 2021, along with legendary players Mathieu Faye (Senegal), Hana Horakova (Czech Republic), Stanislav Kropilak (Slovakia), Oscar Moglia (Uruguay - posthumously), Detlef Schrempf (Germany), Penka Stoyanova (Bulgaria - posthumously), Sergey Tarakanov (Russia) and Haixia Zheng (China).

Messina (second row, far right) served several seasons at Virtus as an assistant coach

The path to playcalling greatness usually doesn't happen the way it did with Messina, who was only 16 and on a youth team of Rever Venezia when he heeded the advice of a coach and stopped playing to focus on becoming a coach himself. He had shown qualities that would make him an excellent teacher and strategist in basketball and acted on them.

Though Messina has admitted he wished he had continued playing, his decision to become a coach at a young age helped him reach the top.

He coached the Venezia youth team in 1976 and then the Basket Mestre youth team in 1980 before taking up assistant coaching posts at Udine in 1982. Messina began assistant coaching duties at Virtus Bologna in 1983.

In 1989, Virtus Bologna made Messina the head coach. There was no turning back. He went on to have two stints at Virtus, with several years in between in charge of Italy's national team, a side he led to the FIBA EuroBasket 1997 Final.

In his first run with Virtus, Messina coached the outfit to 1990 Italian Cup glory and the European Cup Winners Cup, which was later renamed the Saporta Cup. He also guided Virtus to the 1993 league title.

Messina coached Virtus to the Italian league crown in 1993

In his second stint from 1997 to 2002, Messina took Virtus even higher. He led a fantastic squad in the EuroLeague that included Antoine Rigaudeau, Predrag Danilovic, Alessandro Abbio, Hugo Sconochini, Rasho Nesterovic and Zoran Savic past Partizan Belgrade in the Semi-Finals and then AEK in the title game. In 2001, he won the competition again with a best-of-five series triumph over Baskonia. In that second spell, his Virtus sides won three Italian league championships and three Italian Cups.

Success followed at Benetton Treviso, where he guided the team from 2002  to 2005, and then at CSKA Moscow, his team from 2005 to 2009. In that time with the Russian giants, Messina coached the team to EuroLeague titles in 2006 and 2008.

After a couple of seasons at Real Madrid in Spain, Messina took his coaching expertise to the NBA and worked on the bench of the Los Angeles Lakers before returning to CSKA.

Messina coached Italy a second time, in 2016 and 2017 (above)

From 2014 to 2019, Messina worked as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. During this time, he also coached Italy for the second time at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016 in Turin and the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 in Israel and Turkey.

Since 2019, he has been in charge of Olimpia Milano.

For three decades and counting Messina has been - and continues to be - one of the best in the business.

Name Ettore MESSINA
Category of Inductee Coach
Date of birth 30th September 1959
Place of birth Catania, Italy
Nationality Italian
  • Virtus Bologna (1989 – 1993)
  • Italian National Team (1993 – 1997)
  • Virtus Bologna (1997 – 2002)
  • Benetton Treviso (2002 – 2005)
  • CSKA Moscow (2005 – 2009)
  • Real Madrid (2009 – 2011)
  • Los Angeles Lakers - assistant coach (2011 – 2012)
  • CSKA Moscow (2012 – 2014)
  • San Antonio Spurs - Assistant coach (2014 – 2019)
  • Italian National Team (2016-2017)
  • Olimpia Milano (2019 – 2021)
Coaching Highlights
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup champion (1990)
  • Eight-time Italian Cup champion (1990, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2021)
  • Mediterranean Games gold medalist (1993)
  • Six-time Italian league champion (1993, 1998, 2001, 2002)
  • FIBA EuroBasket silver medalist (1997)
  • Four-times European Cup Champion (1998, 2001, 2006, 2008)
  • Two-time Italian Super Cup champion (2002, 2020)
  • Six-time Russian league champion (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014)
  • Two-time Russian Cup champion (2006, 2007)
  • Three-time VTB united league champion (2008, 2013, 2014)
  • Three-time Community of Madrid champion (2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Three-time Gomelsky Cup champion (2012, 2013, 2014)
Individual highlights
  • Two-time best Italian coach (1990, 1993)
  • Three-time Italian league best coach (1998 , 2001 , 2005)
  • European coach of the year (1998)
  • Four times Russian league coach of the year (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Two-time Euroleague coach of the year ( 2006, 2008)
  • 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors (2008)
  • Italian Basketball Hall of Fame (2008)
  • VTB League Hall of Fame (2019)
  • NBA All-Star Game assistant coach (2016)