Atlanta Hawks Coaching Carousel: Is Ettore Messina Still a Possibility?


LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 12: Ettore Messina, Head Coach of CSKA Moscow gestures during the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four game 3rd and 4th place between CSKA Moscow v FC Barcelona Regal at O2 Arena on May 12, 2013 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Luca Sgamellotti/EB via Getty Images)

According to Ettore Messina, possibly the most interesting name that has popped up in the Atlanta Hawks coaching search, he is not going to be roaming the sidelines in Philips Arena anytime soon. Messina told the website R-Sport that reports of his meeting with Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry are false.

"“They’re rumors,” said the Italian-born Messina. “It’s meaningless to talk about rumors.”"

Just last week, Yahoo! Sports had reported that Danny Ferry was giving “significant consideration” to hiring Messina as the next coach of the Hawks. Should Hawks fans erase Messina off their coaching candidates list?  Maybe…

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, most people inside the NBA expect current San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to be Danny Ferry’s coach of choice. Budenholzer is currently busy trying to help the Spurs get to the NBA Finals. So, there is a chance we will all have to wait on the Spurs season to end before hearing an announcement proclaiming Budenholzer as the next coach of the Atlanta Hawks.

It remains to be seen whether any of the reports I mentioned are true. Danny Ferry has kept many of his workings a secret since taking over as the GM of the Hawks last summer (remember all the reports that Josh Smith would, not might be, but WOULD be sent out of Atlanta at the trade deadline back in February? How did those turn out?). It should surprise no one that he has not allowed  leaks to the media during this coaching search. Which, by the way, I take as a great sign that the Hawks are in good hands with Danny Ferry.

Should Ferry still be considering Ettore Messina as head coach of the Hawks, it is not hard to see why. Messina’s resume would stack up favorably with just about any other basketball coach on the planet. Among his accomplishments:

  • 22-years of head coaching experience
  • four Euroleague championships
  • coached the Italian Men’s National Team to a silver medal in the 1997 Eurobasket (this is an annual tournament to decide the European basketball champion, set up like soccer’s World Cup with group stages followed by knockout rounds) 
  •  was named as one of ten coaches on the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors list in 2008.

Side note: The list of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors contains some familiar names. One of them is none other than Atlanta Hawks legend and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins helped lead Panathinaikos (Greek League) to the Euroleague title in 1997. Dominique was the MVP of that season’s Euroleague tournament. He went back to the NBA the next season. Incidentally, Italian team Virtus Kinder Bologna won the Euroleague championship the following season. It was the first of Ettore Messina’s four Euroleague titles.

Messina is no stranger to the NBA. He served as a coaching consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2011-2012 NBA season, under then Lakers coach Mike Brown. Some speculated that Messina was brought in to the Lakers organization as a way to help keep Kobe Bryant happy while adjusting to coach Brown’s system. We all know that things with Bryant and Brown did not quite work out, but Messina should not have to shoulder much of the blame. Bryant credited Messina with bringing a “European strategy” to his game. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a positive.  Right?

Here is an interview Messina did with the LA Times, before his season with the Lakers. The interview is insightful to Messina’s basketball philosophy. He preaches balance, ball movement, and using the point guard to create good shots. This would make him a solid fit with Danny Ferry’s vision for the Hawks. Ferry has shared the same feelings as far as how he sees the Hawks moving forward.

Even ignoring his many coaching accomplishments, Messina has impressive qualities. In an interview with the Lakers official website, prior to his one season with the team, Messina mentioned that he is fluently able to speak three languages (Italian, English, Spanish) and can “get by” speaking Russian.

Messina is currently under a 3-year contract with Russian team CSKA. He has two years remaining on the deal. It remains unclear as to what would be required for Messina to get out of his CSKA obligations, should he be hired by the Hawks as head coach. There has yet to be a European coach in charge of an NBA team. This would make a hiring of Messina bold and maybe even innovative. These are not words often associated with the Atlanta Hawks.

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