The Milwaukee Bucks are in the midst of a hotly contested run to the Eastern Conference playoffs. In the background though, looms a franchise altering decision to be made this coming off-season. Since firing Jason Kidd, the Bucks earmarked a full scale search for the future head coach at seasons end. Joe Prunty has done a fine job in the early going, though questions remain if he is the man to lead the Bucks into the future.
In what will be a three part series, Joe Franke and Kane Pitman discuss potential candidates for the job. San Antonio Spurs assistant coaches Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina are first are up first.
Becky Hammon: In October of this last year, Becky Hammon handled the head coaching duties in a Spurs’ preseason win against the Denver Nuggets. For the last two summers, Hammon has had a glimpse of that leadership role in summer league. 2014 marked the first time the NBA saw a full-time paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff. And oh yeah, she led the Spurs to a Summer League Championship. Hammon does not lack in credentials; for the WNBA guard was a 6 time All-Star. Her jersey, No. 25, was recently retired by the San Antonio Stars.
Regardless of how well Joe Prunty does in these last couple months, I cannot imagine Milwaukee not at least considering some options. And why not Becky Hammon? The wrong question to ask “Why not, we have never seen a head woman coach?” But rather why not Becky because she has earned it on merit?
Hammon is respected throughout the hoops world. After her stint with two different WNBA teams (New York Liberty and San Antonio), she has been considered on of the top 15 players of all time. “She talks the game, she understands the game,” expressed Popovich in a previous interview on his assistant. “So in that respect I have no doubts that she’ll be able to be one heck of a coach.”
And as Nancy Lieberman put it, “...the fact that coach Popovich has this much respect for Becky’s basketball IQ, for how she handles herself with the guys in practice, her ability to relate to them…he hired her because she was the best person for the job”
Needless to say, Stoic Pop is not just handing out compliments like that left and right. Basketball is basketball. You do not just accidentally maintain high level of play in 16 seasons of basketball. You do not just casually get your number retired. Even more so, you do not just by chance get hired by Greg Popovich. Obviously, the fact that we have never seen her in the role inhibits our ability to derive just exactly what her offensive schemes or what her defensive schemes would be. But if you have Pop’s vote, you have mine.
Ettore Messina: One name that in recent times has rocketed up the list of potential new NBA coaches is European legend, Ettore Messina. Currently an assistant coach in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, Messina recently expressed his desire to coach at the highest level in an interview with Adrian Wojnaroski.
Messina said, “I’m in a great position where a lot of people would love to be with Coach Pop and stuff and the Spurs. So that’s already a great opportunity. If something would happen in the future, I would be honored. But that’s not something in my control.”
Now 58 years old, Messina is one of the basketball world’s most experienced and accomplished coaches. With over 20 years experience in top flight basketball, Messina’s accolades include:
- 4x EuroLeague Championships.
- 4x Italian League Titles.
- 5x Russian League Championships.
- 2x EuroLeague Coach of the Year.
- Silver Medal with the Italian National Team in Euro Basket 1997.
These are only a few of his many, many coaching achievements thus far.
His squads have been well renowned for having extremely quick and efficient ball movement on offense. This is often a signature trait of European teams, and it comes as no surprise that he has fitted like a glove in the San Antonio system under Popovic. Known as a hard disciplinary style coach, Messina is never afraid to tell a player how it is if they are not playing ‘within the system’. In todays NBA, that could be seen as a different approach to the largely friendly atmosphere between players and coaches.
You feel the Spurs have been grooming Messina to take the head coaching role when Popovich eventually decides to call time on his Hall of Fame career. With each year that moment comes closer, the time to strike for rival franchises reduces.
Messina is coaching to teach, but more then anything he is coaching to win. Milwaukee could do far worse then approaching the veteran European leader looking for his first taste of NBA head coaching.