Legendary head coach Ettore Messina has stepped down from the CSKA Moscow bench and will be replaced by his former assistant, Evgeniy Pashutin, the club announced Monday. During four seasons in Moscow, Messina cemented his status as one of the all-time greats of the coaching ranks, winning the Euroleague twice and finishing second by a single basket the other two times. No other team in modern European history had reached four consecutive title games. At the 2008 Final Four, Messina was also named one of just 10 coaches among the 50 greatest contributors to the first half-century of European club basketball competitions.
"The situation at the club required a change," Messina said in the statement. "I am happy for Evgeniy Pashutin, who received a golden opportunity. Nevertheless, I remember my time in Moscow with pleasure due to our tremendous accomplishments."
Pashutin, 40, replaces had previously worked for CSKA as player, junior team coach and assistant coach under Messina. Pashutin sat on CSKA's bench from 2004 to 2008, reaching the Final Four each time and winning the Euroleague alongside Messina in 2006 and 2008. Last season, Pashutin left to become head coach of Spartak St. Petersburg, which he guided to the Russian League semifinals. He also won EuroBasket 2007 with the Russian national team, also as assistant, and also coached his country's under-20 national team to the 2005 European Championships title.
"This is something unbelievable, because leading CSKA, the best team in Russia and also in Europe, is any coach's dream," Pashutin said. "I am very happy, but at the same time, am aware of the responsibility, because the club is fighting only for the highest place. It is a challenge, a great stage of life. I have strength, the desire to work hard and to continue to keep winning titles for CSKA, bringing it to a new level."
CSKA's statement said that Messina has been offered the opportunity to continue his work with the club as a technical director by CEO Andrei Vatutin.
"Andrei Vatutin has honored me by offering to work in a club in another position, but I have to ponder it well," Messina said.
For his part, Vatutin said that the change on the bench signalled the start of a new era at CSKA.
"On behalf of club’s management, players, personnel, office staff, all the fans I would like to thank the great Ettore Messina for his work in CSKA," Vatutin said in a statement. "No doubt, he is the best coach in newest history of CSKA. Messina’s epoch was the golden epoch for army club. In his four years as a head coach we showed brilliant results which will be extremely difficult to repeat. Four Euroleague finals in a row, two Euroleague titles, four Russian league titles and two Russian Cups – that’s the achievement for the ages. Overall it is impossible to overestimate Ettore’s influence on the development of Russian basketball: his knowledge was always at the disposal of all the young coaches. We will be very glad if Ettore Messina accepts our proposal and becomes the Technical Director of our club. We are waiting for his decision to come soon."
Vatutin indicated that the choice of Pashutin goes hand-in-hand with what will be a new emphasis on Russian players in the CSKA roster.
"We want to see CSKA under the leadership of Evgeniy Pashutin as a young and ambitious team consisting of at least two-thirds Russian players," Vatutin said. "We are confident in our new head coach: Evgeniy Pashutin has an extensive experience working as an assistant to Dusan Ivkovic, Ettore Messina and David Blatt. Last season, Evgeniy showed himself well at Spartak St. Petersburg. He is the coach whose name, we think, will be linked to the future of our club. We believe that Pashutin have every chance to succeed. All the powerful CSKA infrastructure, the experience of managers and staff of the club, the support of fans, are at his disposal. Together, we can succeed. Evgeniy is well aware of the difficulties, and he is willing to take this great responsibility."