Messina or Obradovic: First European NBA coach?

Will we see a European-born coach at the helm of an NBA team sometime soon? Possibly. The race is on. Italian Ettore Messina is receiving serious consideration from Atlanta Hawks’ general manager Danny Ferry. Messina, coach of CSKA Moscow, is on the shortlist of candidates to replace Larry Drew.

Ettore Messina

Messina has four Euroleague titles and Euroleague Coach-of-the-Year awards under his belt to go along with five Russian league championships and four Italian league titles.

Danny Ferry might just be the NBA executive to pull the trigger:

Ferry is considered one of the few NBA executives with the fearlessness to make the historic move. To introduce a European coach into the leadership of an NBA locker room needs a strong, sure executive, and Ferry possesses the independence of mind to make the move. Hired with a six-year, $12 million-plus contract a year ago, Ferry has the freedom to reshape the Hawks franchise.

Ferry has a strong respect for the European game, and as Cleveland’s GM, sent his coach Mike Brown overseas to spend time studying Messina’s offense.

Danny Ferry has a special history with Italy. He was drafted in the first round, second overall, by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1989 NBA draft. Ferry, however, did not want to play for the Clippers and instead accepted an offer to play for the Italian league’s Il Messaggero (now Virtus Roma). The Clippers traded his draft rights and player Reggie Williams to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Ron Harper.

Also in the running to be the NBA’s first European-born head coach is Serbian Zeljko Obradovic. He is possibly the Detroit Pistons’ next coach for the 2013-14 season.

Obradovic, who is one of the best coaches in European history, was quoted a few months back that he would consider coaching in the NBA “if the right opportunity presented itself.”

I thought I would never coach in the NBA. After spending the summer in Detroit, I see myself able to go there. If I get a good offer from an NBA team with playoff aspirations, I’d take it.

The case for Obradovic to land a deal with the Pistons is strengthened by rumors that he has been helping the team scout 18-year-old Giannis Adetocunbo (207 cm) in Greece and that he allegedly already may have received an offer from the Pistons worth $4 million.

Whether it’s Messina, or Obradovic, or both to land head coaching jobs in the NBA, we are entering exciting times as the biggest stage in professional basketball opens and spreads its arms wider and wider.

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