Javier Gómez of Spain-based “contemporary culture mag” Jot Down recently sat down with Ettore Messina to discuss a wide range of topics from Italian politics to Euroleague basketball to Jeremy Lin over some aubergine busiati and swordfish (nice) in quite an extensive interview with the coach of legend.
Messina is of course known for his legendary coaching in European basketball which saw him guide three different clubs to four Euroleague titles up to 2010-11, when he took a consulting job with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In describing his inaugural year with the Lakers, Messina says that the experience took him back 23 years, “back to square one.” And he ultimately takes pride in Kobe Bryant’s contention that Messina brought some European strategy to his game. While Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reportedly told the Italian that “I’ve only heard good things about you. I’ve seen you work and we’d like you to return next year to work with us,” Messina says at present he’s unsure about his 2012-13: “I’ve never had so many job opportunities.”
As for the two trades that didn’t happen for the Lakers this season, i.e. the Chris Paul deal nixed at season’s beginning and any transaction involving Pau Gasol, Messina was philosophical, essentially stating “It is what it is” in so many words. Gasol, Messina argued rightly, was really the Lakers’ only bargaining chip in 2011-12 and thus all the rumors.
Gómez went on to ask a question regarding Team Spain, namely, who would Messina (a former Team Italy coach) choose from between Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic at the no. 4 spot for Los Rojos? For physical intimidation when the Gasol Brothers aren’t on the floor, Messina like I-blocka, but with the duo suiting up, the coach would play the prospective Chicago Bull.
To the question “Is Lebron James the Cristiano Ronaldo of basketball?” Messina responds “I’ll just say that Kevin Durant is a great player,” later calling KD the better outside shooter.
And the most exciting player Messina ever coached? Sasha Danilovic, believe it or not, “for his personality, demanding of himself in an almost obsessive way, because he tried to punch me once, because in the difficult moments of my life he was worried about me with great sincerity and affection. [He] always surprises you. I have a fondness for [Manu] Ginobili like a brother. I’ve had great players like [Theo] Papaloukas. But Danilovic, by his personality, was the most complex, most challenging … he has difficult facets – that makes it more interesting.
For much more (albeit in Spanish), check out the interview with Messina here.