Spurs Assistant Coach Ettore Messina turned a humdrum November game against the Indiana Pacers into a historic night at the AT&T Center, becoming the first European-bred skipper to helm an NBA team.
While Head Coach Gregg Popovich took the evening off to recover from a minor medical procedure, Messina guided San Antonio to a 106-100 victory over Indiana, with one of the standout charges from his Euroleague days leading the way. Manu Ginobili, who played MVP-caliber basketball under Messina at Kinder Bologna, sparked the Spurs with a season high 28 points off the bench.
“It was great to see him out there trying to take over the team, yell at us and get upset,” said Ginobili with nostalgia in his eyes. “It really got me thinking about thirteen years ago, but I am happy for him. It is not easy to replace Coach Popovich, even if it is just for one game. He needed this win and I am happy that we gave it to him.”
As the contest was winding down, Messina turned to Ginobili and credited the veteran guard for yet another victory in his illustrious coaching career.
“He was unbelievable,” said Messina after the game. “He was all over the place, not only basketball-wise, but his effort and his desire was contagious. I think after that awkward start, our veterans took ownership.”
Awaiting the Spurs on Friday is a home matchup with DeMarcus Cousins and the upstart Sacramento Kings. Prior to San Antonio's current five game winning streak, Boogie and the Kings were the last team to knock off the Spurs. After starting out hot, the Kings have evened out a bit at 9-6, but with Cousins down low and Rudy Gay on the wing, they remain a dangerous team.