The Charlotte Hornets will reportedly get creative and interview Ettore Messina for their open head coach position.
After the Charlotte Hornets brought in Mitch Kupchak to become the team’s new general manager, there was an expectation that there would be some significant changes to the makeup of the on-court product. The first of those changes came in the form of head coach Steve Clifford being relieved of his duties.
There was immediate chatter about who the Hornets could potentially bring in, and we have one of our first clues as to who will lead the team from the bench next season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Ettore Messina’s first experience in the NBA came as a consultant on Mike Brown’s staff with the Lakers in 2012 — not exactly the healthiest environment for anyone’s first experience with the league. However, he’s been working as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs since 2014 and is highly regarded as one of the best international coaches alive.
His resume speaks for itself — he’s a four-time EuroLeague champ and has won the EuroLeague Coach of the Year award twice. Much like David Blatt, he’s known for having an incredibly strong personality that might rub American stars the wrong way. Unlike Blatt, he’s had four seasons under his belt working with Pop to get a feel for the cultural differences between the NBA and the myriad leagues he’s coached in before coming to the states.
For Charlotte, Messina could be an excellent fit. He has a stong background in player development and has done his best work with teams full of veteran players. The Hornets fall somewhere in the middle of both ends of that spectrum. The team is veteran led with Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard with a couple of promising young players who haven’t fully put it together yet in Malik Monk and potentially Willy Hernangomez.
ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz wrote a piece about promising coaching prospects in March of last season and said that, “Messina fashioned in Europe an intelligent brand of inside-out ball that forces defenses to move. He has amassed a canon of basketball knowledge and commands respect from professionals, young and old.”
The inside-out game will benefit both Howard, who needs touches to find a rhythm and stay involved on both ends of the floor and Hernangomez, who showed a lot of potential in his rookie season but regressed in year two.
There are the obvious Lakers ties between Kupchak and Messina, but it’s hard to believe that the season-long relationship alone was enough to get Messina the interview. The Spursian pedigree and resume cannot be ignored, neither can the fact that Quin Snyder worked under him as an assistant in Russia before becoming the head coach in Utah. On paper, Charlotte would be lucky to bring in a coach of his caliber.