Jazz eyeing Italian legend Messina?

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
2:42
PM ET
The coaching search farthest removed from the New York Knicks-level spotlight could prove to be one of the most fascinating of the NBA offseason.

That's because the Utah Jazz, I'm told, are on that very short list of teams that will give bona fide consideration to breaking basketball's Euro barrier on the X's and O's side by hiring a new head coach who wasn't reared in North America.

NBA coaching sources say that the Jazz will take a legit look at Italian legend Ettore Messina now that they're on the hunt for a replacement for Ty Corbin, who was informed Monday after three-plus seasons as Jerry Sloan's successor that he would not be offered a new contract.

The immediate focus, in terms of replacements, centered on San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Jim Boylen. And rightfully so, given Boylen's longstanding ties to Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey ... along with the seal of approval that comes when you're hired by Gregg Popovich to help fill the void created by the departures of Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown to head-coaching gigs in Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively.

However ...

Boylen's rough stint as the University of Utah's coach from 2007 to 2011 complicates his candidacy with the Jazz, since hiring him would almost certainly generate a lukewarm response from the local die-hards. Lindsey is secure enough in his beliefs to hire Boylen anyway if he and fellow Jazz officials decide that Boylen is the wisest choice, but you would also expect the very thorough Lindsey to have other options in mind.

None of whom, mind you, generates the sort of curiosity that Messina can.

The Spurs are the team with the longest-known fondness for Messina. Lindsey, of course, was imported from San Antonio to succeed Kevin O'Connor in Utah.

NBA coaching sources, furthermore, say Messina has another big fan in Salt Lake City in former player agent Justin Zanik, who's in his first season as a member of Lindsey's front-office cabinet with the Jazz.

So rest assured that Messina -- widely regarded abroad as the coach most likely to be the NBA's first internationally born and raised head man -- figures into Utah's thoughts.

How seriously? Time will tell. Messina detractors say he's far too demanding, far too intense from the first day of training camp and far too desirous of control to succeed in an NBA environment. Messina supporters duly downplay such claims, insisting that the season he spent with the Los Angeles Lakers as Mike Brown's assistant has left him with a clear idea of the tweaks he'd have to make to succeed in the NBA.

The Jazz, though, will likely have to wait until June if they ultimately zero in on Boylen or Messina. The Spurs naturally won't be surrendering any of their coaches or executives until they're out of the playoffs. And Messina will be coaching CSKA Moscow for another month-plus both domestically and in the Euroleague.

So what happens in the interim? Lindsey being Lindsey -- which is to say Spurs-schooled -- suggests he'll surely talk to a variety of other candidates to help gather intel on other teams while he's also out looking for Mr. Right.

Maybe the next Utah coach even comes from that group -- Chicago Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin and current Jazz assistant Brad Jones have also been mentioned as potential targets -- but the early line has Boylen and Messina at the front of the line.

Like we said: fascinating!

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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