Italian NT coach Meo Sacchetti Photo source:

Being the coach of the Italian National Team is a hard task per se. However, being the coach of the group that showed up at the Acropolis tournament in Athens, Greece, the one that accumulated a total deficit of no less than 52 points against Greece and Serbia (63-83 and 54-86, respectively) seems even harder. The “azzurri” can’t count on Gallinari and Datome for the time being, nor will they have Nicolo Melli at their disposal in the World Cup 2019 in China.

If the above-mentioned problems are just the prelude for what’s about to come, coach Romeo Sacchetti is in big trouble. The 65-year-old, named the Italian League Coach of the Year in 2012 while at Dinamo Sassari, won a silver medal as a player at the 1980 Summer Olympics. He also won a gold medal at the EuroBasket 1983 and a bronze one at the EuroBasket 1985. Those were the “golden years” of the Italian team which is now looking for a come-back to the Olympics after their last presence in 2004 and the silver medal won in Athens.

It’s in the Athenian capital where Sacchetti made the decision to leave Pietro Aradori out of the final cut, a rather peculiar ending for Italy’s captain during the WC qualifiers in the absence of Gigi Datome and given the fact that the player did travel to Greece, but did not play at all against the hosts. Aradori (who also made headlines some days ago, following his elimination from Virtus Bologna’s roster, despite being under contract with the BCL holders) when approached by merely stated: “I don’t want to say anything. You’d better talk to anyone else but me”.

It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow for the new Fortitudo Bologna signing who -per Italbasket’s announcement- is authorised to return to Italy even before his teammates face Turkey in their last game at the Acropolis tournament. It should be noted that on the 19th of August, the team will travel to Beijing and from there to Shenyang in order to play another tournament featuring (again) Serbia, France and Great Britain.

Since Aradori declared himself unavailable (so did FIP president Gianni Petrucci), coach Sacchetti was the person to ask. Not only about that particular choice, but about a range of issues related to Italian basketball. He vividly responded to everything.

Q: How is the Acropolis tournament so far for Italy?

A: Of course, we knew that we were up against some powerhouses from a technical and physical standpoint. We thought it would turn out differently. To compete with them we have to make more baskets from the perimeter because we cannot find solutions inside the arc. We also lack players, but surely we can do better.

Q: What about the match against Greece?

A: Greece have got that player (Giannis Antetokounmpo) who -in my opinion and if he manages to improve his three-point shot- will become the most dominant player in the NBA for the next ten years. For sure, this kind of players, who can play at “five” but at the same time co-exist with a play-maker like Calathes, are very important. Greece has a good potential. There are many very strong teams, some of which we’ve seen here at OAKA. It’s going to be a good battle.

Q: In order for you to decide the final roster, how long will it take?

A: Right now, we are fourteen. We have players like Datome and Gallinari who haven’t played in a “five on five” practice with us. That’s why we needed to bring in some additional players that have helped us out at practice and we’ll see if they are going to be on the team.

Q: Why was Pietro Aradori “cut” from the roster?

A: It was a technical decision, thinking that Datome can also play also the role of “three” and there are Gentile and Abass as well.

Q: La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote that the player took the news badly. What’s the situation?

A: It’s a technical choice. It’s logical that one is dissatisfied with it, but numerous players have gone through this process in the past. The coach is the one who has to decide and, regardless of whether it seems right or wrong, we have a long history of making very important choices.

Q: There was also another incident, involving Daniel Hackett, about one month ago. The player took to the social media, asking for respect. How did you deal with it?

A: He’s currently having some stomach disorders and stayed at home. That’s why he didn’t play against Serbia. He felt bad in the morning and this isn’t the right time to force a player like that to be on the court. If he feels better on Sunday (August 18th), he’ll play. Regarding the issue with what he wrote on social media, I just follow a small part of what is being written over there.

Q: Have you talked with him about the issue?

A: Yes, I have. There was a period of a general misunderstanding. Later, he had some meetings with me and president Petrucci. He thought that he had some more days off before joining the National Team, while we didn’t think so. We sat down and resolved the problem.

Q: Which are the objectives of Italy in the World Cup?

A: Surely, we want to occupy one of the two first spots in our group.

Q: I’d like your comment on what you’ve recently said: “Our boys have to demonstrate a stronger will to emerge”.

A: This means that when things get tough, we need to bring something more on the court. Our players should have their own expectations, put in a lot of work, be professionals, keep on working and improving, even if they don’t get much playing time in their teams. It’s a general discussion that will take too long for me to analyze.

Q: As far as the Italian basketball is concerned, what can change in the near future?

A: The fact that a couple of strong sponsors have joined some teams, as in the case of Virtus Bologna. On paper, there could be three teams capable of fighting for the title. Evidently, Armani Milano, Venezia and Virtus are the most successful. Besides, at the end of the season there are always some upsets, as it happened last year with Sassari.

Q: What about your team?

A: Cremona? We always have to start from scratch. Last year we had a good championship and managed to find a nice group of guys. We know who we are.

Q: What does the advent of Ettore Messina in Milan mean?

A: The best Italian coach has come home.