Ettore Messina – First European Head Coach in the NBA?
Last night, the San Antonio Spurs lost their first round series against the Golden State Warriors. As Popovich couldn’t coach due to personal circumstances, Ettore Messina took over his head coaching duties for the third game in a row. This made him the first (temporary) European head coach in the NBA.
Messina is definitely not an unknown name, as his impressive career started long before he joined the Spurs in 2014. Though he is quite unknown in the United States, Messina is regarded as one of the best European coaches of all time, and he has the record to prove it. In his career, he has won the Euroleague four times, won the Italian League four times, won the Russian League five times, was voted Euroleague Coach of the Year twice and was inducted into the Italian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Now, Messina’s chance to make the next step in the NBA might be near, as the Charlotte Hornets are planning on interviewing him for their head coaching position. At the moment, it seems like he would be the Hornets’ top choice.
At the same time, there are rumors that Igor Kokoskov will finally become a head coach in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns. In 2000, Kokoskov already became the first non-American to be hired as an assistant coach, is currently the assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, and definitely proved his worth as a head coach when he won Eurobasket 2017 with Slovenia. Furthermore, if Kokoskov would take the job, he would have a big chance on being reunited with Luka Doncic, who is projected as an early first round pick.
On paper, Mike D’Antoni is already the first European head coach, as he also holds a Italian passport as well as an American passport, but he was born and grew up in the United States. Last Summer, the Spurs already wrote history when, Becky Hammon, another assistant coach of the Spurs, was the first woman to coach an NBA game (in the Summer League).