Devotion
Ettore Messina, CSKA Moscow
March 26, 2014
Ettore Messina - CSKA Moscow - EB13A coaching genius and one of the best basketball teachers in the world took the opportunity to answer some of your questions in the latest Fan Mail on Euroleague.net. CSKA head coach Ettore Messina has been synonymous with success for almost a quarter century. Messina took three of the four Euroleague clubs that he has coached to the Euroleague title game and has been on the sidelines for a total of 10 Final Fours. Prior to taking over CSKA for the first time in 2005, Messina won a pair of Euroleague titles with Kinder Bologna in 1998 and 2001, as well as 11 Italian domestic trophies – league and cup - with Kinder and Benetton Treviso. His first stint in the Russian capital fell just short of perfect as he took CSKA to four consecutive Euroleague title games, winning the trophy in 2006 and 2008 and coming within two points in each of the other two finals. In addition, CSKA and Messina won four Russian League titles, as well as 2006 and 2007 Russian Cups. He returned to Moscow two summers ago to lead CSKA to 2013 Euroleague Final Four, as well as to new titles in the Russian and VTB United leagues. With the fans, Coach Messina discussed player development, the future of coaching, how the sport is compared at both sides of the Atlantic and much more. Asked by a Euroleague fan about his biggest opponent in the competition, Messina did not hesitate. "I think that the most difficult team we had to face over the years has been Panathinaikos, because it has been a great team with great players and an outstanding coach at the helm," Messina answered. "I think that most of our games have been and will stay part of Euroleague Basketball history."

Coach Messina, what is your personal preference between set plays and generic motion offenses? Here in America it seems that a lot of coaches have been leaving behind the idea of set plays in preference of providing their athletic guards more creativity with a motion offense. I was just curious what your preference was and why.
Travis Nyce, USA

"I don't have a preference for set plays or motion offense because I think that the most important thing is to have balance in your offense: ball movement, players movement and balance in the sense to have the ball reversal or to play inside/outside; throw the ball inside to the low post and then throw it out to get good shots. So, I think that you can get and you must get these four things in whatever kind of offense you run, depending on the players that you have."

Hello Ettore, How do you regard the support you get from CSKA fans? And how do you think it should change for the better?
Serzh Gorely, Russia

"Our fans are very, very important to me, to the players and the club. Obviously, we see the most of that every time we have the luck and the opportunity to play in the Final Four, where we receive incredible support by our fans who travel. But even when we have a full arena in Universal Sports Hall, the players really feel that. We hope that with our game, we will draw many more fans because in a town like Moscow, it is important to have a top team like CSKA performing with the help of their fans every possible time."

Dear Ettore Messina, which player do you think is doing the best at the moment in Europe? In the NBA? Why?
Egor Sergeevich, Russia

"I don't have an answer for this question, because I think that there is a group of players who perform at a very high level and who can be considered among the top in Europe. To select just one I think it would be unfair to the many others that, in many teams, perform well and, more important, prepare hard every day to be at the best of their level in every game. In the NBA, I think that the two players who are most under the spotlight are LeBron James and Kevin Durant, especially for their ability to create offense, to play defense, to rebound, to shoot from outside, to go in the low post... there are very complete players and they really attract most of the attention from the fans."

Coach, what do you think about the development of youth basketball players in Russia?
Vyacheslav Tashchilin, Russia

"I think that much more can and must be done in Russia. I think that there is a lot of effort by local communities, local clubs, local schools and coaches to develop the best of the players, but I also think that there should be a central plan, organized by the federation, to improve the level of the coaches and the recruitment all over the country. This is a country with hundreds of millions of people and to have a central organization that oversees the procedure of selecting the talent and growing the talent must be mandatory, like it has been in Italy, Greece and Spain for many, many years. I think the federation should invest money in having a permanent coaching staff for all the youth program and have these coaches travelling, teaching, coaching and selecting fulltime, 12 months per year, 30 days a month in order to get the best out of the research in the country."

Dear Mr. Messina, given your experience in both the Euroleague and the NBA, what is your take on the differences between them? Most describe the Euroleague as "a coaches league" and the NBA as a "players league". Would you agree and what else would you add to this? Thank you,
Michael Lazarou, Cyprus

"For sure, in Europe we have the opportunity to be in a situation that is in between college and NBA. We have situations in which you can coach a club for many years. The first names that come to my mind are coach Aito Garcia Reneses in Spain for many years, coach Zeljko Obradovic in Panathinaikos for many years.. Even myself, this is my sixth year in CSKA. You can build a little bit of a legacy staying for a long time in a club. At the same time, the players have still the major role even in the clubs here in Europe because they are the main actors of our show. There are many other differences between the games and for sure, I would mention the difference in athleticism between European players and American players, especially in some positions like small forward, where we have sometimes a huge difference in terms of physicality between the two leagues. But also the size of the court, the speed that the game is played with, and very, very important, the 48 minutes, that marks a huge difference between our 40 minutes and the length of the NBA game, that forces you to different rotations and different strategies in order to take advantage of the skills of your players for such an extended time during the game. Obviously, the difference with the three-second defensive rule is also something that sets a huge difference between the two games. So, two different games, two different competitions, but still, I love the drama that there is in every Euroleague game every week, where we can see incredible games and sometimes, incredible upsets, where the non-favorite team can beat the favorite."

Coach Messina, do you think about going back to the NBA? If you could, who would you like to have from Euroleague player on your team?
Miroslav, Lithuania

"Who knows? Maybe it might happen. It is something that I don't have control of, because it depends on people who might be willing to offer you a position there. Should I go back, for sure I would have a lot of names that I would like to bring with me. Again, as I answered before, it would be unfair just to say one name with respect to the many great players that we have in the Euroleague."

Coach Messina, I'm a national trainer in Spain and I wish to know: 1) How important is to improving each player's level for you? 2) What percentage of players in the last five years were interested in individual improvement? and 3) In your opinion, how important is detail in modern basketball? From a Spanish fan,
Santi Perez, Spain

"Especially because I coached young players at youth levels for many years, I still have a strong belief that players should work every year on improving their skills. Just maybe adding one offensive move or just taking care of one defensive move, improve their shooting abilities, improving the free throw shooting or the passing... It is something that not only makes the player better, but also the team, because the player himself will be ready to contribute at a higher level to the game of his team. I think that with the changes on the regulation - meaning that all players have become free agents - all players have understood that it is in their best interest to try to become better every year because when their contract expires, they can expect or look for a better situation or a better contract. This depends on how they perform, on how they grow up and how they become better every year. I think that the details are always important. The details make the difference between a high-level team and a normal one. The execution and your success depends on the details that you apply in your performance."

Hi, I have a question: What is your relationship now with your former Slovenian players Matjaz Smodis and Erazem Lorbek? Thank you,
Ziga Kos, Slovenia

Ettore Messina - CSKA Moscow - EB13"I have lost a little bit of my relationship with Lorbek because he moved to Barcelona and I moved to other clubs. I just coached him for one year here in CSKA. On the other hand, I am still very close to Matjaz. We've been working together for many years, both in Bologna and CSKA. We have been lucky to experience some great moments. He is one of the persons, not the players, that I am closest to in my life and in my career. We still have sometimes the opportunity to meet him and his family, whether they come here to Moscow, like he did two years ago, or if I have the opportunity to travel to Slovenia, like I did this summer during EuroBasket. Definitely, Matjaz is a person that I consider very, very close."

Hello, Coach! You took over CSKA from Jonas Kazlauskas in 2012. How did the team looked then and in what ways did you decide to change it? Did you keep any of his techniques or did you change everything? Thank you!
Martynas Suslavicius, Lithuania

"When I came here, following Coach Kazlauskas, we have to face three major changes, not for our will, but because of the situation. I mean that we lost Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved, who decided to go play in the NBA, and we lost Ramunas Siskauskas, who decided to retire. This forced us to reshape the team completely and also forced us to make some moves to replace these players at the best possible level allowed from the market. Still, we had the opportunity to keep some of the players who were with Coach Kazlauskas. I think that Coach Kazlauskas did a great job in his stint here in CSKA. They won two VTB Leagues. He took the team to the final game of the Euroleague, which is always a great accomplishment. I took advantage, like I did when I first came here following Coach Ivkovic here in Moscow, of the good work that was done before by Coach Kazlauskas and we even kept some of the things that he was doing."

Hello Ettore. Which was the most difficult team you have had to face over the years? Panathinaikos, Maccabi or another one?
Elie Dray, Israel

"I think that the most difficult team we had to face over the years has been Panathinaikos, because it has been a great team with great players and an outstanding coach at the helm. I think that most of our games have been and will stay part of Euroleague Basketball history."

Hello, Coach Messina. For the last two decades you and Mr. Obradovic have had the best results coaching Euroleague teams are considered by most fans to be two of the very best coaches in Europe. However, ever since you both started your careers, a whole generation of new coaches has come to Europe's best teams, many having developed their skills by analyzing the work of coaches like you. Do you think that now there is much more competition out there for excellent coaches like yourself and a select few others who traditionally dominated European competitions? I wish you and your team good luck for the rest of the season.
Sotiris Economou, The Netherlands

"First of all, thank you for the compliment, also on behalf of Coach Obradovic. I think that there have always been a great number of great coaches. Now, in the last years, especially because of Internet, there is a possibility to have access to much more information through the web, the possibility to attend to many more clinics, to watch more games, to steal details - as I always do when I watch the games of my colleagues - a lot of young coaches are coming up and the competition is becoming tougher and tougher. So it is becoming more difficult every year. Young lions are trying to steal the territory from the old lions, so probably it is about time to start thinking about leaving them the space."
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