28 December 2011
Every person during his life gets inspired and influenced by certain people. People that have an impact on your views and mentality. It's no different for athletes along their careers.
Coaches, trainers, teammates, fans or just friends that have nothing to do with ball -- our kind of life gives us the opportunity to meet lots of different people from different cultures. All those friendships and meetings have turned me into the person that I am today.
I was thinking of this when watching the Los Angeles Lakers play the Chicago Bulls a couple of days ago. One of the people that has had a big impact on myself as a player and person must be Ettore Messina. Ettore is currently working as a consultant for Mike Brown at the Lakers and previously coached me both at CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid from 2006 until 2010.
I respect him a lot and there will probably be other former players he coached along the way that think differently, but here are my reasons to do so.
I will start with his approach. Ettore is the most demanding coach that I have met throughout my whole career. Demanding doesn't mean he was working us out six hours a day. Not at all. All he asked for was a perfect two hours a day. As soon as you stepped on the court, you had to be perfect.
With other coaches before I had experienced that some days when you weren't quite feeling it, you could hide a little in the corner and save your energy for the upcoming games. That wasn't the case with Messina. He would have caught you doing that within the first five minutes of practice.
The defensive and offensive rules were so clear and logical that there was no way of getting around them. It was like being taken to a class of math every day. You could discuss, he would listen, but most of the time he made more sense anyway.
I had no problem accepting his way because it was clear Ettore was as demanding for himself as he was for the team, and since we were winning most games (we won the 2006 and 2008 Euroleague with Moscow) the rest of the guys did too.
What made him different too from many other coaches was daily trust he had in his players.
European coaches - another difference from NBA coaches - tend to control the off court behavior from their players. Early wake ups, late night checking if you're home, watching over the food you eat -- Messina never thought this was his job. He'd let you sleep in, and do your own weight program.As long as you were perfect those two hours per day he trusted his players at all time. A great feeling if you live like a real pro, because you know best what it takes to perform at your highest possible level at all time.
Watching the Lakers play I could already recognize his (European) hand in the offense. Lots of swinging the side of the offense, back door cuts, and agressive pick and rolls.
I am sure Los Angeles will benefit later in the year when they will be really be used to the Brown-Messina combo.
Tomas Van Den Spiegel is a professional basketball player who has played around Europe for the past 16 years. Currently a center with BC Oostende in his native Belgium, Van Den Spiegel has spent time with Fortitudo Bologna, Virtus Roma, CSKA Moscow, Prokom Sopot, Azovmash Mariupol, Real Madrid and Olimpia Milano. A proud father of two children - Ana and Theo - Van Den Spiegel's "Big Man In Belgium" column is featured regularly on Beyond the Beat. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomasvds