It may be Final Four week here on BiE but Nicolò Origgi is keeping an eye on a story in domestic action that merits your attention
Italian Lega A has looked all but unpredictable since the glory days of Mens Sana Siena, with the exception of the 2014/2015 season that saw Dinamo Sassari knocking out heavy favourite Olimpia Milano en route to another dramatic Game 7 finish against Reggio Emilia. These days the Armani-led powerhouse has once again fallen victim to another island team in a playoff game. This time, the executioner hails from a little village in northern Sicily – so little that, as it was pointed at halftime, its whole population is smaller than the capacity of Milan’s arena – that had already tasted the postseason back in 2008 under the likes of soon-to-be-retired Gianmarco Pozzecco, sharpshooter Drake Diener and future Congolese journeyman C.J. Wallace, having earned the right to play in the top tier thanks to an almost perfect Terrell McIntyre-led campaign three years before. In order to reach such heights, though, the club acquired in 1996 by Enzo Sindoni in the then sixth division had apparently bitten off more than it could chew and was therefore excluded from the league the very following season due to some unsettled debts.
Starting back from the fifth division, Orlandina wasted no time in getting back to LegaDue. After a tough impact there, the club’s paths crossed again with its most beloved player from the recent past. Indeed, Pozzecco was handed his first coaching job and helped the team avoiding relegation, following that with a playoff run that was halted only in the finals by a Trento squad that could count on an absolute luxury for the category. As Siena went bankrupt at the end of the same season and another team was therefore needed to fill such void, the former point guard left Capo d’Orlando where it used to be when he retired as a true local hero. It took only five years to get back to Lega A and the near future looked bright as well since the key core of successful veterans such as Gianluca Basile, Matteo Soragna and Sandro Nicevic was kept in the roster. As a matter of fact, the risk of an immediate demotion was never an issue in spite of a questionable turnover concerning American players. The past season turned out to be a real struggle instead and only the signing of scoring combo-guard Ryan Boatright saved a team fallen at a 4-12 record halfway through the campaign.
Back to current affairs, Orlandina has welcomed back a seasoned yet still effective Drake Diener after his well known health issues and did not miss the choice for the point guard spot once again. Unfortunately, Galatasaray noticed that and gladly paid the buyout to secure Bruno Fitipaldo’s services around Christmas time. This accident turned into an opportunity, though, as the recently appointed executive of the year Giuseppe Sindoni managed to replace the Uruguayan standout with an equally accomplished floor general such as the still young Nikola Ivanovic. The Montenegrin’s arrival has only extended the kind of former Yugoslavian enclave that already included 20-year-old Serbian sensation Vojslav Stojanovic, former Euroleague castoffs with the label of unfulfilled prospects such as Milenko Tepic and Mario Delas, as well as the last of Capo’s Mohicans in the position of locker room leader despite seeing extremely limited playing time. Throw in the mix also a domestic big man who used to call the minor leagues home alongside a returning safe bet who used to tear it up all over tiny Romanian gyms as the only American import in the roster and there you are.
Only time will tell whether Capo d’Orlando’s latest exploit will lead to greater things or remain a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece. However it is, the only sure fact is that Milan’s fans can feel relieved as there are no major islands left in Italy that could haunt their unavoidable road to the title!