The San Antonio Spurs organization has a reputation of being one of the most culturally diverse teams in the NBA. The current roster boasts players from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy and New Zealand. Even Tim Duncan, the quintessential Spur, is from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Spurs have made sure to bring in talent from all over the world in order to build the dynasty that continues to lead the league each year.
This year, San Antonio has made a few new additions, most notably within the coaching staff. Head coach Gregg Popovich now has two new assistant coaches – Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina. Hammon has received plenty of attention, being a woman in a league led predominately by men, but much less attention has been given to the addition of Messina.
Messina has a long and impressive career in professional basketball. Not only has he succeeded in international basketball with teams in the Italian league, the Italian national team, Real Madrid in Spain, and CSKA Moscow of Russia, but Messina spent 2011-12 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Messina has found success in basketball and has much to offer to the Spurs, but is also aware of the intricacies of the NBA and how this league differs from the international game.
While Messina’s resume is certainly impressive, his most valued asset may be his ability to connect with the international talent of the Spurs. Messina is Italian, which should be a solid foundation for the European players on the team, particularly Marco Belinelli, a fellow Italian, and Manu Ginobili, who played under Messina in Italy. Messina’s experience as a head coach in various international leagues has provided him with the experience to connect with players from different countries and cultures. In short, his career has prepared him to coach the Spurs.
The Spurs’ offensive system is very similar to an international style in which ball movement is key, and Messina has experience with that as well. He should fit in very well in San Antonio, and will help them become an even more unselfish team. After watching the Spurs dominate the playoffs last year, any improvement should scare the rest of the league.