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50 YEARS MEMORIES: VARESE
Dynasty for a decade
If you look year in 50 Years of European Club basketball, no other team matches the dynasty that Pallacanestro Varese had in the seventies. Putting it simple, Varese made it to 10 consecutive European Cup finals from 1970 to 1979, winning five titles in the process, something that no other team, before or after, has been close to match. Founded in 1945, the team already was the Italian League runner-up in 1949. Varese needed more than a decade to lift the Italian League trophy in 1961 and did it again in 1964. Ignis Varese made it to the 1965 European Cup semifinals, losing a two-way series against CSKA Moscow amid controversy. Its legacy would start at the end of the sixties, when coach Aza Nikolic led Ignis to win the Italian League and the Italian Cup titles with Aldo Ossola, Dino Meneghin and Manuel Raga as its main stars. It was just the beginning of its golden era, as Varese would win three Euroleague titles in 1970, 1972 and 1973. It that period from 1970 to 1974, Varese also won four Italian League titles, three Italian Cup titles and made it to the other two European Cup finals in 1971 and 1974. Meneghin, Ossola, Raga, Marino Zanatta, Ivan Bisson and sharp shooter Bob Morse helped Varese to dominate the European Cup with wins against CSKA in 1970 and 1973, as well as against Split in 1971. Varese had already started a huge sports rivalry against Real Madrid and both teams made it to the European Cup finals from 1974 to 1976. Varese would lift two more European Cup trophies in 1975 and 1976 and even when no more top continental titles came, Meneghin, Ossola, Morse added to their legacy with three more trips to the title game from 1977 to 1979. Not happy with that, Varese would also win consecutive Italian League titles in 1977 and 1978. Once it had made it to each European Cup final in the seventies, Varese went on to win the 1980 Saporta Cup title, downing Cantu in the final. Varese has not lifted any other European club title since that moment, even when it lost the 1985 Korac Cup finals against Milano. Its only title since 1980 has been the 1999 Italian League, as players like Veljko Mrsic, Daniel Santiago and Jack Galanda helped Varese to add more hardware to its trophy case. Even with that, Varese is one of the most legendary clubs in European club basketball.
1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976
Classics: Meneghin on Varese years
INTERVIEW: BOB MORSE
"It was a great stage for all of us"
He was booed by the home fans early in his first game in the uniform of Varese, which had won two of the previous three continental titles. Then he started hitting nothing but net for most of the next seven seasons. In the middle years of European basketball's biggest dynasty - 10 consecutive finals and five trophies in seven seasons - Morse was Varese's top scorer in its last two title-game victories, dropping 30 and 28 points, respectively, on Real Madrid in 1975 and 1976.
"We already had the sense that what we were doing was historic. Three out of four was pretty impressive already, but to go along and make the final again and again through to 1979 was unheard of. Year by year, that just impressed me and the team's fans that this was something that had never been done before."