"Ettore's players in Italy have a great understanding of the game," says Vandeweghe. "His style is not too different from the NBA's. He's a great defensive coach, his team works hard, and he likes the running game."
Messina, 44, led Italy to the silver medal at the European championships in 1997, and in the last five seasons his teams have taken two Euroleague titles. A progressive thinker and a low-key motivator, Messina played a major role in helping Manu Ginobili and Marco Jaric make easy transitions to the NBA. "He's got everything going for him," says Benetton Treviso G.M. Maurizio Gherardini, "knowledge, experience, charisma and an excellent grasp of English."
Messina views his summer job as little more than a cultural exchange between the two clubs, pointing out that Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik will travel to Treviso next month to participate in a couple of camps organized by Benetton. "It would be really stupid for me to say that I am aiming to become a head coach in the NBA," says Messina, who has two years remaining on his contract with Benetton. "But 10 years ago nobody would have predicted there would be so many international players doing so well in the NBA I look at this as a way for me to make a little first step into the big world and say to the guys, 'I am here, let me introduce myself.' "