Could the Charlotte Hornets go international with their head-coaching hire?
ESPN reported Sunday that the Hornets have received permission from the San Antonio Spurs to interview assistant Ettore Messina, an Italian who had extensive coaching experience in Europe before coming to the NBA in the Los Angeles Lakers organization in 2011.
New Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak knows Messina from when Kupchak ran the Lakers from 2000 through 2017. Messina was a consultant with the Lakers during the 2011-2012 season, before leaving to coach CSKA Moscow.
Messina joined the Spurs coaching staff in 2014 and is now serving as Gregg Popovich’s top assistant. The Spurs are down 0-1 in a first-round playoff series against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Two former Popovich assistants are already among the NBA’s 30 head coaches: Brett Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers and Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks.
Messina coached extensively in Italy, Russia and Spain, starting in 1989, before his first stint in the NBA with the Lakers. He won four European championships in that span.
Kupchak fired coach Steve Clifford Friday morning, ending Clifford’s five-year tenure as Hornets coach. Clifford had one year left on his contract with the Hornets.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell