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Getting to know better Tom Bialaszewski, the summer addition to the coaching staff


It was the shot heard around the world. The shot that is still talked about today, the shot that inspired books and documentaries. 1992: NCAA Regionals’ final game. Kentucky against Duke. The mother of all games was almost over. Rick Pitino against Mike Krzyzewski. All the Wildcats had to do was to keep the Blue Devils from scoring in their last, desperate attempt. The long pass by Grant Hill found Christian Laettner at the opposite end. He got the ball at the top of the key. A turnaround jump shot followed. Nothing but net. Kentucky is eliminated. Duke continues its NCAA championship run. A few months later, Laettner will be the only college player to make the 1992 American Dream Team in Barcelona. Christian Laettner was from Buffalo, New York. Like Tom Bialaszewski, a new member of Ettore Messina’s staff in Milan. A new entry for European basketball.

“I kind of falling in love with the game in Buffalo – Tom says -, it’s not the classic basketball hotbed, but at that time Christian Laettner was playing for Duke. He was living 15 miles from where I grew up. There was a lot of Duke coverage.” Buffalo is in the upper part of the state of New York, a cold place, close to the marvelous Niagara Falls. Buffalo was home to one NBA team in the 1970s, the Braves, before they moved to the other coast. But Buffalo is all about football, with the beloved Bills of the NFL taking all of the attention. And still, Tom Bialaszewski had other ideas and other passions. “I have watched a lot of college basketball since a very young age up to my high school years. During my sophomore year in college, I started coaching high school basketball at my old school for three years.”. And that was the start of a coaching career. “Then, I had a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers and I havee been in professional basketball since then.”

The longest experience in one single place was the one with the Lakers. “To work for the Lakers, with their worldwide recognition, their story. with players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, was an incredible experience, on and off the court. I had the opportunity to work for three different head coaches, but also an array of assistant coaches who eventually became head coaches, like Quinn Snyder, Steve Clifford and Ettore Messina here in Milan.” At the end of his Lakers years, he was responsible for the “game planning”. “In the NBA the games are coming fast and furious, three or four per week in general. I watched the five previous games of every team, analyzing strengths and weaknesses, trying to prepare an attack plan for specific situations according to our base principles.”

And during those years, Bialaszewski grew closer and closer with Kobe Bryant. “Kobe was great. He gave me credibility, When you earn the respect of somebody like him, the rest falls in place. We started to watch his clips at halftime and over time I felt comfortable in asking him questions, giving him  – well, I don’t want to say insights because he knows so much about basketball – what I saw. This kind of relationships for me, especially because I never played the game, understanding his point of view, what he saw, what he did and why, was important for my development.”

The last experience that he had was in Australia. “I was technical director and head coach at the NBA Global Academy, a program that was started lately. The best way to explain it, is they identify talented players that in their countries don’t have the infrastructures to become the best players they could be. They bring them to Australia from different parts of the globe, Cameroon, South Korea, Argentina, Asian countries, to be coached but also to have strength and conditioning coaches, physios, nutritionists, educators.”

Tom Bialaszewski came to Milan, because of his relationship with Coach Messina, that was developed over the course of the years. “We met during my first year with the Lakers and his only season there, but it grew after Los Angeles. When he was in Russia, we talked and discussed a lot, I was intrigued by the international basketball, felt like it was an untapped resource for the NBA, how they do things. When he returned, to San Antonio, and I was a scout with Utah, we saw each other often.” And then Messina called to propose Milan. “Excitement was the first emotion. It began as a possibility, should he decide to come back in Italy. The opportunity to work for a coach like that, an organization like that and immerge into the European basketball concepts was a phenomenal opportunity professionally. Then the life experience too, live in a different country, expose my children at a very young age to a different culture, it just checked all the boxes.” And here he is now. In Milan.