A legend of the coaching profession is returning to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague sidelines with the announcement Tuesday that AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan has put Ettore Messina in charge of the team's bench and basketball operations for the next three seasons. Messina, 59 years old, will replace Simone Pianigiani, who was released by the club after two seasons as head coach during which Milan's record in the EuroLeague was 24-36.
Messina returns to his native Italy and the EuroLeague after five years spent working as an assistant coach with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. Messina is tied for second all-time among EuroLeague head coaches with four titles won, the first two with Kinder Bologna, in 1998 and 2001, and two more with CSKA Moscow, in 2006 and 2008. Messina, who was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Contributors to the first half-century of European club basketball, is also a two-time Alexander Gomelskiy Euroleague Coach of the Year Trophy winner, both honors received in the seasons he won titles with CSKA.
In addition to those Final Fours that he won, Messina guided his teams to five other championship game appearances: with Kinder in 1999 and 2002, Benetton Treviso in 2003, and CSKA in 2007 and 2009. He has reached Final Fours a total of 10 times, the second highest total for any coach, and has won nearly two dozen domestic trophies in Russia and Italy. Messina also spent two years as head coach of Real Madrid and seven as the boss of the Italian national team, winning a silver medal at EuroBasket 1997.
The last time Messina coached a club in Europe, he guided CSKA to the 2014 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four, which took place in Milan. Now, in that very same city, he will seek to bring a three-time continental champion who last won in 1988 and has been waiting to reach the Final Four since 1992, to new and greater heights.