The sight of Ettore Messina marauding the line for the San Antonio Spurs was big news and an historic first, but it was business as usual for the metronome like franchise on the court. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has undergone what the organization calls a “minor medical procedure” and missed last night’s cruising victory over the Indiana Pacers.
With Popovich absent (he is likely to miss Friday’s home encounter with the Bucks too), it was left to assistant Ettore Messina to step in and take the reins. Of course, Messina is no wet behind the ears rookie, he happens to be one of the greatest European coaches of all-time. Indeed, the fact that the four time Euroleague champion has had to wait this long speaks more for the reluctance of the NBA to accept foreign coaches than it does Messina’s talents.
Of course, his tenure as chief tactician will be brief, but Messina cut an historic figure on Wednesday as the Italian became the first European schooled in the cauldron of the Euroleague to lead an NBA team. He joined the Spurs this summer as an assistant coach from CSKA Moscow, but whether he will ever get a real shot at leading a franchise remains to be see.
As for the game itself, the San Antonio Spurs were typically effective as they shut down the Pacers (106-100) on the back of a 28 point haul from Manu Ginobili. Ironically, Messina and Ginobili combined for the perfect off and on court team as they guided Kinder Bologna to two Euroleague titles at the turn of the century.