After once becoming dubbed the “Phil Jackson of international basketball” within the Lakers’ front office, Ettore Messina could be called the next Lakers’ head coach.
The Lakers’ coaching search has just started after Mike D’Antoni formally resigned after the team refused to assure him it would exercise its team option to retain him for the 2015-16 season. But one of those candidates among many could be Messina, whose one-season as a consultant with the Lakers under Mike Brown left a favorable impression on Kobe Bryant. Messina is currently coaching CSKA Moscow after having a storied European coaching career that entailed winning four Cups of Italy with Virtus Bologna, three cups of Italy with Treviso and two Russian Cups with CSKA Moscow.
“I am just glad if I left good memories of my season there,” Messina wrote in an email to this newspaper. “It would be inappropriate to make any comment about the situation.”
Messina has hoped to become an NBA head coach, but he left the Lakers following the 2011-12 season to have more head coaching experience with CSKA Moscow, where he also coached from 2005 to 2008. The Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings and New Jersey Nets have reached out to him as possible coaching candidates in recent years. But Messina said, “I don’t consider them true opportunities” in an interview I had with him three years ago.
“Obviously how can you not be open,” Messina said three years ago in general terms regarding any possible NBA head-coaching job. “But I also think you’re not in a position to force anything. This is my way of seeing things even in Europe. You can’t force an opportunity. You do your best job where you are. Then if somebody from the outside likes it, you might have an opportunity. If not, you just leave happy with what you have.”
As for Messina’s coaching philosophy, it sounds different from the fast-paced, perimeter offense that D’Antoni implemented. He encountered the Lakers showing a divide on that philosophy with Kobe and Pau Gasol
preferring a post-oriented offense at a slow pace, while Steve Nash and a flurry of perimeter oriented players gushed about D’Antoni’s freedom in his offense.
“You can’t limit your team to just be an inside team or a perimeter team,” Messina said. “You need to combine the two things. I think the great teams combine the two aspects of their game. They have balance on the floor and they usually take a balanced shot on offense.”
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