Messina leaving Spurs to join Italian club, source confirms
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has lost his top lieutenant.
Ettore Messina, who joined the Spurs in 2014, has agreed to a multi-year deal with the Italian team Olimpia Milano to serve as its head coach and director of basketball operations, a league source confirmed Tuesday.
The source said the job in Europe was a "very big opportunity" for the 59-year-old Messina, who had failed to get a head coaching job in the NBA despite his rich resume.
The departure of Messina and Ime Udoka, who joined the Philadelphia 76ers last week, leaves Becky Hammon, Will Hardy and Chip Engelland as Popovich's only assistants. It's uncertain how soon the Spurs will move to replace Messina and Udoka.
Messina's contract with the Spurs was set to expire this summer.
So now we've got two bench spots open after Ime Udoka left to be top assistant in Philly, and Cameron Hodges who worked under Chip Engelland in Player Development went to Philly as well. Now with Ettore departing for a lucrative higher power, multi-position, multi-year deal, we suddenly but not surprisingly need filling out on the bench. Both Ime and Ettore have been interviewing for head coaching positions, probably a half dozen for each these last couple of years, and while James Borrego was hired on last season as HC in Charlotte, for some reason neither Ime nor Ettore were given a chance. Each has left for higher positions elsewhere, and you can't blame them for pursuing growth opportunities. The Spurs coaching tree continues to branching out, but with this pruning, there is room for growth on our bench now as well.
Pop has mentioned that Ettore being a bit older made for a relatable kinship, and his experience, I imagine, was a sword sharpens sword situation that could only benefit the team. Sad to see both Ime and Ettore leave, but given all their interviews, not unexpected, and I'm happy they're getting good opportunities to develop and progress. I'm just glad we don't have to coach against them in the NBA.
Thank goodness Pop re-signed on a three-year deal to stay on as coach. There has been a whirlwind of change these past couple of years in the locker room and now most recently on the staff side (including several before this season began). Throughout all of that, Pop's steady presence, leadership, and experience, along with R.C. and our core is more vital than ever to guide us through the next phase of the Spurs era. Thank goodness as well that Dejounte was invited and sat in on all those coaching meetings. To have soaked up so much from such an experienced knowledgeable collective is so valuable, and he will be a crucial extension of that on the floor.
It has been reported that Will Hardy will likely get a bigger role (I'm assuming on the front bench), and this leaves Becky Hammon as the longest serving front bench assistant, but it does not necessarily mean she will now be top assistant. She may, but remember that Ime was already here when Ettore joined the Spurs and given his resume, was given the lead assistant role.
So who do we bring in? Try and pry Chad Forcier back? Maybe Avery Johnson? Very busy off-season just got more added on the to-do list.