Messina’s mythology: “Ettore” defending meritocracy
Ettore, both in real life and in the most famous Iliad, defends nothing but meritocracy itself, always avoiding media flattery and trash talk. His career seems like a simple path, step by step, from Reyer Venezia to San Antonio Spurs, and you can’t easily find a real “Achilles” who could beat him: a Sicilian man – you know what I mean –who worked in the productive North of Italy, laying low and doing his own work.
Good intentions and good masters. He was formally trained by Sandro Gamba, Alberto Bucci and Bob Hill: day by day, this hard work as assistant coach in the 80s gave him the best basketball background he could have dreamed of.
A winner is of course ambitious, not always a social climber. Even in Bologna – which wasn’t so easy, Messina starts to win regularly, thanks to wonderful strategies and tactics and valuable players like…Manu Ginobili.
But he’s hard to please. With the national team he won the silver medal in 1997 European Championship, a gold medal in Giochi del Mediterraneo and another silver in the Goodwill Games, clearing the ground for Boscia Tanjevic.
Like Picasso with his Blue Period, Ettore joins in his “Continental Period”, eager to compete in Euroleague. A man of the sunny South Italy who actually works in the cold and harsh Moscow: seems like an are-you-kidding-on-me-Fate gag.
With Messina’s solid and unbreakable mark, it wasn’t impossible to lose. When life threatened him with a deep grief, right before Euroleague Finals, he managed to win the title moving to tears basketball fans all over Europe.
Then, during the Final4 in Milano against Maccabi (David Blatt’s masterwork), an unexpected loss: when I interviewed him I saw an emptied and weakened coach, an educated and serious man floating between memories from the past and a shiny future right in front of him.
I asked him about the basketball “Heaven” (this time, not through the backdoor) and the answer was an elegant jolt: the choice was already made in his mind.
Let’s stay sober: we can’t judge an actor by the number of Oscars or by a funny selfie during the awards ceremony. Totò, De Filippo, Gassman were great even without a chat with David Letterman. Ettore Messina is obviously “inside” this media game but we owe him the same respect Pop gave and gives him, letting the others judge him. Sooner or later.