Ettore Messina

Big Changes Coming In Sacramento?

Vivek Ranadive and other members of the Kings‘ ownership have grown increasingly frustrated with the team’s poor performance, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Ranadive has been open about his disappointment through text messages in season-long group chats with general manager Vlade Divac, head coach Luke Walton, assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic and chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis.

The specter that has hung over the franchise for the past two seasons has been the decision to bypass Luka Doncic and take Marvin Bagley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. Doncic has developed into an MVP candidate, while injuries have limited Bagley to 13 games this year and may wipe out the rest of his season.

The Kings put a lot of effort into scouting Doncic, Charania relays, including a dinner with Ranadive that one of the owner’s children posted on social media. Ownership supported taking Doncic, but Divac and former assistant GM Brandon Williams were concerned about how he would fit alongside De’Aaron Fox and believed adding a big man was a better choice.

Sources tell Charania that significant changes aren’t being planned to the front office or coaching staff right now, but Ranadive will reassess the situation this summer. He declined to be interviewed, but the team issued a statement that read, “We share our fans’ frustrations with how the season has unfolded and are working hard to improve. We remain confident in Vlade’s leadership in building the winning team that our fans and city deserve.”

Charania shares more from inside the Kings’ organization:

  • Divac will be held accountable for the team’s free agent signings last summer and other roster decisions. Dewayne Dedmon was a huge disappointment after being given a three-year, $40MM contract and was traded to Atlanta last week. Trevor Ariza was also traded, while Cory Joseph has been effective as a backup point guard and Richaun Holmes was a nice find before being injured.
  • It was Divac’s decision to fire Dave Joerger and target Walton as his replacement, giving him a contract that runs through the 2022/23 season, just like Divac’s. Several members of the ownership group have been critical of Walton, and sources say that Ranadive’s group chats are a way to air those issues. The organization considered Monty Williams and Ettore Messina as other coaching candidates, but only if Walton turned down the job.
  • A decision could be coming this summer on Buddy Hield, who received a four-year extension in October, but lost his starting job last month. Hield called out “trust issues” in the organization a few weeks ago, and there is a belief that he may ask for a trade if he remains unhappy with his role, a source tells Charania. Hield thinks he should be a starter and has been a frequent critic of Walton’s decisions.

And-Ones: Messina, All-Surprise Team, 2020 Draft

Olimpia Milano head coach and president of basketball operations Ettore Messina has coached some of Europe’s top teams, including CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid, and spent several years on the Spurs‘ bench as a top assistant to Gregg Popovich. However, an NBA head coaching job has eluded him. Speaking to Jeff Greer of The Athletic, the veteran coach – now 60 years old – suggested he hasn’t given up on the idea of coaching an NBA team.

“Maybe it will happen; maybe no,” Messina said. “Maybe I will be an assistant again. I do enjoy my time here (in Italy). It’s a good experience because you learn a lot about how the overall club and team function and how the club and team interact with each other. I try to do a poor man’s Pop.”

While Messina may view himself as a “poor man’s Pop,” the actual Pop is among those who believes that his longtime assistant deserves a shot to be the head coach of an NBA franchise.

“If somebody was smart enough, they would’ve hired him as a head coach here in America,” Popovich said, per Greer. “To date, that hasn’t happened, but he is one of the all-time greats. I don’t know what else has to be said.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic makes his picks for his “All-Surprise Team” of the first third of the 2019/20 NBA season. In addition to much-discussed breakout or comeback players like Wizards forward Davis Bertans and Lakers center Dwight Howard, Hollinger singles out some contributors that have flown more under the radar, including Bucks guard George Hill and Nuggets wing Will Barton.
  • The Utah fan who was banned from the Vivint Smart Home Arena last season for allegedly directing racist and derogatory remarks toward Russell Westbrook has sued the Jazz and Westbrook and is seeking $100MM in damages, according to Benjamin Wood and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. The fan, Shane Keisel, claimed that his heckling “was of the same kind and caliber as that of the other audience members in the section.”
  • The 2020 NBA draft should feature a deep class of international prospects, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz (Insider link), who shares insights on a handful of promising youngsters currently playing in Europe.

Knicks Reportedly “Obsessed” With Masai Ujiri

The Knicks are “obsessed” and “enamored” with Raptors executive Masai Ujiri as the next man to run the franchise, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. A front office shakeup is expected in the wake of yesterday’s firing of head coach David Fizdale, especially considering the poor track record of team president Steve Mills.

Begley speculates it would take “significant money and full autonomy” to land Ujiri, who is already in a comfortable spot after building a championship team. Even if the Knicks are willing to grant that, Ujiri may not want to work for a controversial figure like James Dolan, and he is signed with Toronto until 2021, a contract he said in October that he plans to honor.

Echoing a report we shared last week, Begley states that the Knicks believe Ujiri could be drawn to New York City to provide a larger platform for his charitable work with the Giants of Africa Foundation. However, there was similar speculation about Washington, D.C., a few months ago when the Wizards were restructuring their front office, and Ujiri opted to stay in Toronto.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Despite a 4-18 start and six straight losing seasons, the Knicks’ front office job is still viewed as appealing around the league, Begley adds in the same story. The team has drafted well under general manager Scott Perry and has held on to its first-round picks. The Knicks also retained cap flexibility by signing seven players to short-term contracts this summer after failing to land their top targets in free agency.
  • A few players got to say goodbye to Fizdale before he left the team, Taj Gibson tells Begley (Twitter link). Gibson said Fizdale was emotional during the departure, adding, “Guys loved him.”
  • Mark Jackson, a former Knicks guard and ex-head coach of the Warriors, is a 5-1 favorite to be the next head coach, relays Adam Zagoria for Forbes. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag have Kenny Smith second at 6-1 and Italian coach Ettore Messina at 7-1. Next in line are three college coaches, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
  • Interim coach Mike Miller thanked Fizdale and the Knicks organization during today’s pre-game press conference (video link from Vorkunov). Neither Mills nor Perry has addressed the media since the firing became official, and nobody from management has commented apart from an unattributed statement that was released Friday.
  • Former NBA player Keith Bogans has been named to Miller’s staff, the Knicks announced on Twitter.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale Fallout, Potential Long-Term Replacements

The Knicks fired David Fizdale earlier today while also relieving Keith Smart of his duties as assistant coach. The move comes after a 4-18 start, which ties a record for worst in franchise history.

While Fizdale repeatedly told reporters that he had owner James Dolan’s backing, Jabari Young of CNBC.com hears from an agent who represents coaches around the league that the firing was “inevitable.” Assistant coach Mike Miller will now take over as the interim head coach with 60 games to go in the season.

Former Warriors coach and Knicks guard Mark Jackson has been linked to the team as a long-term candidate for the role (any major hire is likely to come in the offseason) and Young reports that Spurs assistant Becky Hammon would be interested in the job should the team be willing to offer her a long-term deal. Young mentions four or five years as the necessary length of the contract.

Young also mentions former Coach of the Year (2007) Sam Mitchell as a good candidate for the short-term, as Mitchell has a reputation for getting top effort out of players.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Jeff Van Gundy, Jason Kidd, and Tyronn Lue are among the former NBA coaches that Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic names as options for the Knicks. Vorkunov also lists several potential candidates without former head coaching experience, such as Jarron Collins, Stephen Silas, and Ettore Messina.
  • The firing of Fizdale won’t clean up the Knicks’ issues, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explains. Zillgitt believes that the front office should shoulder the blame for putting together this roster and simply expecting Fizdale to produce results with it.
  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post argues that the Knicks should fire team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. The regime put together a plan of signing big-name free agents and failed to deliver.

And-Ones: FT Rule, Jeezy, Kobe, Scola, Title Odds

According to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days, there are some concerns regarding the new free throw rule implemented in the G League for the 2019/20 season.

One concern is whether the decrease in rest time (which would occur during second or third free throw attempts) could lead to more injuries. Another is whether coaches will forget to send players in for substitutions before the first (and only) free throw.

One G League front office employee is also concerned that the game flow would impact assignment players – their free throw attempts, as well as their in-game rhythm – as they adjust back and forth between the G League and the NBA.

“For us, we want the G League game to model the NBA as closely as possible… I understand what the league is trying to do but there are other options to consider before this one.”

Here are some more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Rapper Jeezy is launching his own sports agency called “Sports 99” and will begin representing NBA and NFL players, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic explore some details about the select group of players that participated in the Mamba Sports Pro Invitational, hosted by Kobe Bryant, at the end of August.
  • Veteran forward Luis Scola has signed a deal with EuroLeague’s Olimpia Milano, head coach Ettore Messina announced, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando.
  • Adam Zagoria of Forbes notes that the LakersClippers, and Bucks are early favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship.

And-Ones: Lin, James, Harrison, Williams

Point guard Jeremy Lin has received an offer from CSKA Moscow, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Lin is one of the biggest names remaining on the NBA free agent market but has received little interest following a disappointing stint with the champion Raptors. He was expected to be a rotation player in the playoffs after reaching a buyout with the Hawks but only appeared in eight postseason games during the title run, averaging 1.1 PPG in 3.4 MPG. Lin, 30, has appeared in 480 NBA games.

We have more international basketball news:

  • Olimpia Milano is looking to part ways with former NBA guard Mike James, Carchia tweets. The Euro team signed another former NBA point guard, Shelvin Mack, on Thursday to essentially replace James. Head coach Ettore Messina informed James there’s no playing time available with the addition of Mack. James played a combined 36 games with the Suns and Pelicans during the 2017/18 season.
  • Guard Aaron Harrison will remain in Turkey with Galatasaray, his agent told Carchia (Twitter link). Harrison, 24, last appeared in the NBA with the Mavericks, playing nine games during the 2017/18 season.
  • Former Suns and Nets forward Alan Williams will likely sign with Russia’s Lokomotiv Krasnodar, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Williams, 26, played five games with Brooklyn last season.

Spurs Assistant Ettore Messina Joins Olimpia Milano

11:09am: Olimpia Milano has made it official, announcing today in a press release that Messina has signed a three-year contract to serve as the club’s president of basketball operations and head coach.

8:01am: Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina has agreed to a deal with Italian club Olimpia Milano, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Charania, Messina will run the team’s basketball operations and will become its new head coach.

Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reported on Monday that Messina had interviewed for that dual role with Olimpia Milano, the only Italian club in the EuroLeague, and was expected to make a decision on his future this week. Prior to Charania’s report, Carchia had indicated that Messina was leaning toward accepting Milano’s offer.

While the details of Messina’s new agreement aren’t known, Carchia classifies it is a multiyear deal and suggests that Olimpia Milano made the veteran coach a “rich” offer to lure him away from San Antonio. Messina will replace Milano head coach Simone Pianigiani on the sidelines, and is expected to name a new general manager soon, per Carchia.

A longtime head coach overseas for CKSA Moscow, Real Madrid, and other clubs, Messina joined the Spurs in 2014 as Gregg Popovich‘s lead assistant. He has received interest from multiple NBA teams as a head coaching candidate since then, interviewing with the Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors in 2018, and the Cavaliers in 2019. He also coached Italy’s national team from 2015-17.

With Messina’s imminent departure, the Spurs will have some holes to fill on Popovich’s coaching staff for the 2019/20 season. After James Borrego left for the Hornets last spring, Messina and Ime Udoka are departing this year — Udoka recently accepted a job as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

Assistants Will Hardy and Becky Hammon are in position to take on more prominent roles in San Antonio.

Spurs’ Messina Reportedly Interviews With Italian Team

Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina was in Italy this week with his agent for an interview, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. As Carchia details in a pair of reports, Italian club Olimpia Milano is interested in bringing Messina back to Europe.

The only Italian club that currently plays in the EuroLeague, Olimpia Milano is in the market for a new head of basketball operations and may name a new head coach as well, though Simone Pianigiani still holds the HC position for now. The team has interest in Messina for the dual role, per Carchia.

A longtime head coach overseas for CKSA Moscow, Real Madrid, and other clubs, Messina joined the Spurs in 2014 as an assistant. He has received interest from multiple NBA teams as a head coaching candidate since then, interviewing with the Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors in 2018.

Messina, who coached the Italian national team between 2015 and 2017, also served as the Spurs’ interim head coach for three games during the 2018 postseason following the death of Gregg Popovich‘s wife Erin.

According to Carchia, Messina is expected to make a decision this week on whether to join Milano or remain with the Spurs.

Cavaliers Notes: Messina, Udoka, Fernandez

The Cavaliers‘ meeting with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina is taking place today, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).

As we detailed last week, Messina will become the second assistant on San Antonio’s staff to interview for Cleveland’s head coaching job this spring, joining Ime Udoka. Udoke “came across as very sharp” during his interview on Sunday, Fedor writes in a Cleveland.com mailbag.

As Fedor explains in that same mailbag, the Cavaliers appear unlikely to interview Becky Hammon, a third assistant from the Spurs’ staff. In Fedor’s view, that’s because Messina and Udoka are lead assistants in San Antonio and are more ready to take the next step to a head coaching role. It’s the same reason Fedor believes Cleveland is unlikely to hire Jordi Fernandez, who is further down in the pecking order on the Nuggets’ staff than most of the other candidates the Cavs are interviewing.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • While Fernandez may not end up being the Cavaliers’ choice for head coach, it would make for a good story if he is. Joe Vardon of The Athletic explains why, with an in-depth look at Fernandez’s coaching journey and his deep ties to Ohio.
  • Within his mailbag, Fedor observes that the Cavaliers will have limited resources available to add pieces to their roster this offseason. However, if they’re able to acquire outside help, the Cavs need to prioritize shooting and/or rim protection, according to Fedor.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic examines the Cavaliers’ roster situation and potential draft needs, outlining why he thinks the team should draft R.J. Barrett over Ja Morant if given the opportunity.

Cavs Secure Permission To Interview Ettore Messina

The Cavaliers have received permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their vacant head coaching job, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link).

Messina adds to a long list of coaches who have registered interest from Cleveland, including Blazers assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts, Nuggets assistants Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr., Mavs assistant Jamahl Mosley, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen, Heat assistant Juwan Howard, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka and former Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

Among the group, only Mosley, Howard, Bickerstaff, and Jensen have interviewed to date. The Cavs are conducting a wide-ranging search in wake of their mutual parting with former coach Larry Drew, but the team has yet to ask for permission to interview any college coaching candidates, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Messina holds several years of coaching experience and started with the Spurs in 2014. Before that, he spent over two decades coaching overseas and eventually agreed to become a consultant for the Lakers in 2011-12.

“Coach Messina is one of the finest coaches we have in the business, and hopefully he will get a shot to show that (as a head coach) in the NBA at some point” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said this season, as relayed by Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News.

This would be the second head coaching gig Messina has interviewed for in the past calendar year. He pursued the Suns’ job last spring and ultimately lost to the recently fired Igor Kokoskov, also receiving interest from teams such as the Kings and Lakers in their coaching searches at the time.