We went beyond our expectations

Ettore Messina is running his revolution at Milano well ahead of schedule. In his first year at the helm of Armani Exchange Milano they have already qualified to the Euroleague Final Four and are playing one of the most exciting brands of basketball in Europe 

Our last interview was called Step by Step which reflected your cautious and methodical approach to the process of building a successful organisation. Now you have jumped into the fast lane of the motorway and qualified to the Final Four of Euroleague. What were the factors which allowed you to create a team which could become Euroleague Champion this season in such a short period of time? 

I think we went beyond our expectations. We were hoping to make the Play Off and we ended up with home court advantage. Because of that we could beat Bayern which was a very tough opponent. Now we will go there to F4 and we will see what happens. There are three other excellent teams which in comparison to us must be seen as favourites. We have a very tough much up against Barcelona. We are going there without any particular expectations. At this moment we are simply enjoying playing against the top teams in Europe 

Could you reflect on the series against Bayern which was extremely tough and was decided literally in the dying minutes of Game 5? 

The big factor was the first game when we came back from a 17 or 19 points deficit and won at the buzzer. That has shifted the series towards us because if we had lost that one it would have been a completely different scenario. I guess, I would also say that the last 45 seconds of Game 5 has affected the entire impression of the series. It has spoiled a very good game on our part when we had a 10-15 points lead for the majority of the time. Thats basketball, they are a very resilient team and have tried to come back all the time. So, we had a little thriller at the end. 

Do you feel that the series against Bayern helped you to establish  an even deeper roster capable of challenging for the biggest trophies? 

I think It has nothing to do with that series. We have already a lot of people who have played in Final Fours, have a lot of experience and won a lot of things during their careers and this series adds nothing to their experience. 

How do you see your match up against Barcelona? You have lost twice against them in the regular season. Will that carry any importance in the Final Four? 

Yes, they are not good match up for us because the way how they are built. They are very long; they are very aggressive, and they switch a lot. They have a big guard in Nick Calathes and that allows them to switch a lot defensively. Sometimes you match against teams well, sometimes not so good. Unfortunately, we are not matching good against Barcelona so we know that it will be a very difficult game for us. 

Do you take some form encouragement from Barcelona’s series against Zenit? With a significantly inferior squad they were on the brink of eliminating Barca. 

Honestly, I haven’t seen those game yet because right after our series against Bayern we had to concentrate on finishing our domestic competition here in Italy and have started the Play Off straight away. So, I haven’t even watched those games. For sure I will watch these games and see whether there is something which we can use to prepare us better against Barcelona. 

You have already mentioned that in the Euroleague you have exceeded your expectations qualifying to the Final Four. You are very successful on the domestic front as well. What is your assessment of your first year at Armani and where are you going from here? 

We have won the Supercup and Italian Cup and also we finished first in the regular season here in Italy. We have qualified to the Euroleague Play Off and F4. Now we hope to be lucky and stay healthy to compete for a Euroleague title. We know that we are not favourites at all in Cologne but we will fight. Of course, we will very aggressively pursue the domestic title in Italy which will be little bit complicated because I can see that everyone’s mind and heart is focused on Euroleague Final Four. We definitely will have to also focus our energy on the Italian league. 

Many thanks for talking to us and all the best in Cologne.