A month after almost winning the Turkish Airlines Euroleague title game, CSKA Moscow has turned to one of the most successful coaches in Euroleague history to lead its team again. CSKA announced officially on Tuesday that Ettore Messina will return as head coach as part of a three-year development plan adopted by the club's board. He replaces Jonas Kazlauskas, who leaves CSKA after coming within a point of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague title in his only season with the club. Messina, 52, cemented his status as one of basketball's all-time great coaches during four successful years with CSKA. Between 2005 and 2009, he and CSKA won the Euroleague twice and lost the other two title games by 2 points each. Messina returns to the bench after spending two seasons with Real Madrid, from 2009, when he left CSKA, through March 2011, when he stepped down prior to the Euroleague playoffs. Last season, he worked with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA as a consultant-assistant coach. All told, Messina has four Euroleague titles, split between CSKA and Kinder Bologna, which ties him for second with three other head coaches for the most in European basketball history. Just as remarkable, Messina has reached Euroleague finals seven times with three different clubs - and has never lost in the semifinals.
Messina, a two-time Alexander Gomelskiy Euroleague Coach of the Year Trophy winner, also led CSKA to four Russian League titles and lifted the Russian Cup trophy twice during a near-perfect stay in the Russian capital. Messina had previously won his two other Euroleague titles with Kinder Bologna in 1998 and 2001 and reached the title games three other times - with Kinder in 1999 and 2002, and with Benetton Treviso in 2003. Messina has also won four Italian League and seven Italian Cup titles during his career, the 1990 Saporta Cup with Virtus and won a silver medal at EuroBasket 1997 with the Italian national team.
"As it was in 2005, the invitation of Ettore Messina is a momentous event for us," CSKA president Andrey Vatutin said in a statement. "For the Board to sign Messina was one of the strategic priorities during the formation of the club for the coming season, the key to a new three-year program.
"At the same time it is very difficult to part with Jonas, intelligent, decent man and an excellent coach. I want to emphasize that we have no complains to his work - under the guidance of coach Kazlauskas CSKA had one of the most successful seasons in history, the team demonstrated spectacular basketball, young players were able to show themselves, to reach a new level. Nevertheless, the Board adopted a new club three-year program, which provides a major renovation of roster and coaching staff."
"I feel I am blessed to work here again, with lots of friends." coach Messina said in an interview for the CSKA Moscow official website
. "I hope that the fans who always supported our team in good and bad moments will give us confidence and trust to prepare a new team, new program. For sure, some players retire, some dream of going to the NBA and because of that we will have some changes, we will need time to select newcomers, to prepare the team in the best possible way to reach our goals. We should not live in the past, should not talk too much about those fantastic seasons when we were always in the finals of the Euroleague, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. We should concentrate on the future and work hard. Every year it is more and more difficult to win in Europe."