CHARLOTTE, NC (Rick Bonnell/The Charlotte Observer) - The Charlotte Hornets will act quickly to interview San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their head-coaching opening, as soon as the Spurs season is complete.
A source familiar the situation said Messina will interview as early as the middle of next week, if the Spurs are eliminated by the Golden State Warriors by then. Ettore coached the Spurs in Thursday's loss to the Warriors, as head coach Gregg Popovich mourned the death of his wife, Erin.
The Spurs trail the best-of-7 series 3-0. Game 4 is Sunday in San Antonio. A possible Game 5 is Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. It's yet to be determined when Popovich would rejoin the team.
Messina, 58, was a highly successful International coach (four European championships) in Italy, Spain and Russia before joining Popovich's staff in 2016. He has a previous connection to new Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak, from when Messina served as a consultant to Kupchak's previous team, the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2012.
ESPN first reported the Hornets received permission from the Spurs to interview for the job. Kupchak fired Steve Clifford as coach last Friday, after Clifford coached the past five seasons in Charlotte.
"He's one of the best coaches in the world," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News when he hired Messina. "He's very successful, a great technician, a great game coach. To be able to befriend him over the years, and now work with him, is a joy for me and really good for our organization."
Messina would follow former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt as coaches with primarily European backgrounds who became one of 30 NBA coaches.