Not only did he install a new offense during camp; he had to do it with an offseason’s worth of fresh bodies. So after a loss in their fifth game, a single question divided most of the Basketball God Fearing world: should CSKA Moscow fire Ettore Messina?
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After spending last year in Mike Brown’s ear as an assistant with the Lakers—Brown called him “one of the great basketball minds in the history of the sport”—the Italian coaching legend returned to CSKA Moscow, the club with whom he had won Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008.
Messina also won with Kinder Bologna in 1998 and then again in 2001, thanks to 27 points from a 23-year-old Argentine guard named Manu Ginobili in game three of those finals.
If Messina could add a fifth trophy this season, he would become only the second coach in European basketball history to win five continental championships. Only Bozidar Maljkovic and Aleksandir Gomelskiy—for whom the Euroleague’s Coach of the Year trophy is named—have as many. Only Zeljko Obradovic has more, with eight.
But Messina’s fifth trophy felt more than just a few months away Thursday against Barcelona.