Here we start presenting the members of the Olimpia’s Hall of Fame. The first one is obviously Adolfo Bogoncelli (Sandro Riminucci is in the picture with him).
Adolfo Bogoncelli, the Bogos, is Mister Olimpia. All the club’s history is part of his personal story. Bogoncelli is the one who founded Olimpia and then kept the myth alive for decades. Olimpia was born… in Modena, where Bogoncelli attended the military academy falling in love with basketball and handling the local team, GUF Modena. When he was finished with the academy, Bogoncelli – a Treviso native – moved to Milano and here founded the Triestina Milano, a team supported by the Action Party to promote and defend the “triestinità” at a time the eastern Italy town was in peril of being taken away from the country. Bogoncelli convinced some good players from Trieste to join him in Milano, including Cesare Rubini. But just a little later, the Action Party stopped paying him money and Bogoncelli to keep his team alive had to move it to Como and play a Serie B season. One year later, Dopolavoro Borletti was promoted in Serie B, too and Bogoncelli had the idea to merge his Como’s team with Borletti and returned to Milano full-time. The team was initially known as “Borolimpia” but its real name has always been Olimpia. The great idea was to pretend the year of birth was 1936 so it was the same year of the first title. It was like being born under the success sign.
Bogoncelli was the Olimpia’s founder basically but its visionary president too and with a sixth sense for, well, everything: he was the one picking Rubini as a player-coach, then as a coach-only, he was the creator of the Rubini-Gamba couple, he decided to send Gamba to the United States to learn, study and watch players, he was the one launching the “red shoes” and the brilliant red jerseys. He made Olimpia not just a war-machine on the court but also a club at the top of the game in everything. He signed-off the great Bradley’s idea and he was the president of the first-ever European championship and he was the one who hired Dan Peterson as a coach, interviewing him… in Paris and creating another successful tandem with Toni Cappellari. Peterson arrived riding the wave of the rebuilding project after the astonishing relegation to A2, although swept away very quickly.
The last move by Bogoncelli was selling the team to Gianmario Gabetti, who quicky traded for Meneghin from Varese and built another great dynasty. Bogoncelli was great even at picking his successor.
Everybody called him Ricky. Enrico Pagani was the Simmenthal captain and also some sort of symbol outside the lines: beautiful, with Asian eyes, the product of being born from a Russian mother in Shangai. They called him also “The Chinese” and had a role in a famous movie “The Dreams in the Drawers” along a star actress of that era, Lea Massari. He played for Olimpia from 1949 to 1960, he was a point-guard, playing along Sandro Gamba in the backcourt winning something like nine titles. He didn’t play much for the Nationl team, just 38 games in a three-year span, but that fact doesn’t change that he was a leader and also the face of Simmenthal during those years. He was a vocal leader on the court, more reserved out. He died in 1998, when he still had to turn 70. He was a man of great culture, capable to speak 12 languages and “used” often by Olimpia as a translator. It was Pagani, who during the University Games in Budapest approached Bill Bradley on behalf of Simmenthal to convince him to spend one year in Milano. He was the translator also when Bogoncelli dealt with Arthur Kenney.
Cesare Rubini, The Prince. Enough said. He hasn’t been just the Great Olimpia Milano’s legend; he has been a lot more. Rubini has been the greatest athlete ever if we can mix two sports completely different one from the other, basketball and waterpolo. A Trieste native, he was brought in Milano to launch Adolfo Bogoncelli’s team, the one which should have been symbol of “triestinità”. Then the Triestina team became Olimpia merging with Borletti and he became the icon, beyond being as a fact the first professional player in the history of Italian basketball. To understand which kind of player he was: he conquered the silver medal at the European Championshipa in 1946 and the gold medal in 1947, but the last one in waterpolo! He was an extraordinary athlete, a team-player, a hard-nosed guy, a defensive stopper. In 1948 he turned down the opportunity to play basketball at the London Olympics to win the gold in waterpolo. In 1952 he won the bronze medal at Helsinki, conquering a spot in the waterpolo Hall of Fame, an honor he was awarded in basketball too. In 1947 he became Olimpia’s player-coach, in 1950 he won his first Italian title as a coach (and he was still playing) and didn’t stop until 1954. In 1957 he quit playing and kept coaching, while his charisma extended through at least two or three different eras, given that his last win was the 1972 Cup of the Cups. He was also the first Italian coach to win the Champions Cup with an Italian team, in 1966, and he also coached a generations of stars showing his talent in recognizing talent and in the handling of it. Among the Americans, many are worthy of mentions but mostly Bill Bradley, Skip Thoren and Art Kenney. He was a genius in creating coaches too. Under his wing, Sandro Gamba was promoted, becoming his first lieutenant as a player and then assistant coach, but also Dido Guerrieri (and Pippo Faina who was responsible for bringing in Milano Mike D’Antoni, or Bruno Arrigoni, Toni Cappellari who experienced more success as managers). With Gamba, he formed a “team” that experienced great success also with the Italian national team, winning the Olympics silver medal in 1980 and the gold at the European Championships in 1983.
In his own way Sergio Stefanini has been an historical player for Italian baseball beyond what he did with the National team and in the domestic competition. During the decades linking the 40′s and the 50′s, he probably was the best Italian player, a four time league leading scorer, a winner of three championships in Venezia and five more in Milano where he arrived in 1950. Moving from Venezia to Milano he was one of the first and most remarkable hit on the market in Italy. Besides, Stefanini – his father was from Veneto, his mom was a Brazilian – played in Brazil with Fluminense from Rio de Janeiro. Technically speaking, he was the first Italian to play abroad (dead in 2009, at 87, Stefanini asked to berlusconi creamed and his cinders have been brought in the family tomb in Brazil). A center, a big-time scorer, he was also a great athlete both in terms of quickness and elevation. He ran the 400 and was an high jumper. His forte was using the bank shot and knew how to pivot. He retired early, at 32, to follow his professional career outside basketball, he had two degrees and spoke three languages fluently. Before retiring he received an offer from Real Madrid. It was a different era and he turned it down.
Sandro Gamba began to play basketball in 1945, when he was 13 (he was born on June 3rd, 1932). On April 25th he was hit by a machine gun while Italy was about to reclaim its independence. Basketball was soon to become a magnificent obsession but at the time it was used for medical reasons. It was great to reacquire the use of the right hand. Five years later he made his debut in Series A and immediately won his first championship, under the wing of Cesare Rubini, his friend, his mentor, his bigger brother basically. Gamba won 10 championships as a player, all with Olimpia, the only team he played for, he’s been team’s captain but also the symbol, a player with gut and leadership abilities more than talent and skills. Those traits defined him as a coach later in his life. Gamba was the coach on the court, a star for the Italian National Team and mostly a terrific defensive player. During the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where he was the captain of the team coached by legendary Nello Paratore, Gamba was selected by Nasa: he had the physical attributes and the mental toughness to be an astronaut. He turned the proposal down and started a second career in 1965. As a coach. And the second stage of his life was not less spectacular than the first.
As a Cesare Rubini’s assistant, he basically had two positions, general manager (he was responsible for many American player’s signings) and coach “de facto”. After building Olimpia in the Sixties and early Seventies, he moved to Varese, where he won two more championships and two European titles, with the Italian National team he won the silver medal at the 1980 Olympics and the gold at the European Championship in 1983. As a coach he developed a web of friendships and contacts the made him very popular and well-connected in the United States. His credibility is sky-high and made him a lock to be elected into the Springfield Hall of Fame.
Born in Split, raised in Trieste, Romeo Romanutti has been one of the many “triestini” who made Olimpia’s history. In 1949/50 he became the Italian league leading scorer playing for Lega Nazionale Trieste. The following summer he was acquired by Borletti where he stayed for eight consecutive seasons, the last two with the Simmenthal logo on the jersey, winning the scoring crown again in 1955/56. In Milano he won six titles but when he arrived he was already a national team player, a star (he played in the 1948 Olympics in London but had to give up the 1952 participation for working-related reasons!). He left Olimpia in 1958, at 32, and then played two years in Varese and one more season in Vigevano. He died in 2008, at 82. As a player he was a forward, great shooter and scorer but mostly he was an athlete, he liked to run out on the break. In Olimpia there was another player with similar skills, Sergio Stefanini. Three times Stefanini finished slightly ahead of Romanutti in the scoring standing. There was a palpable rivalry between the two but it was a productive one for both of them and for the team.
Gianfranco Pieri, born on February 6th in 1937, has been of the great Olimpia stars coming from the talent hotbed of Trieste. He was probably the first great modern point-guard in the history of Italian basketball. Cesare Rubini, obviously, was the one who badly wanted Pieri to come to Milano, after a 34-point outing against Olimpia, at 18. It was the best way to convince someone it’s much better to join you than to fight you as an opponent. It happened in 1955 when Pieri’s father left Trieste and moved to Milan in a job-related move. At that point, the team was already established as a powerhouse, but Pieri allowed it to extend the cycle and nurture the legend. In November 1955, he made his debut with the Nation team, at 18, in 1957 Pieri won his first championship and was considered by many the best player in the entire league. From that point on, he never stopped himself, won nine championships, made famous the glasses he used to play with, was nicknamed The Professor, played the 1960 Olympics and returned for the 1964 edition, was Olimpia’s starting point-guard in 1966 winning the first Champions’ Cup. He’s now obviously a member of the Italian Hall of Fame.
Pieri has been the pioneer of an history of point guards of extreme quality in Olimpia: after him, there’s been Jellini, D’Antoni and Djordjevic or Gentile, some of the best in Europe. Pieri was a nice shooter but his trademark was the passing ability. He used to play with his head up while dribbling, seeing everything on the court and he also had an imposing height for his position and that era, 1.91.
Sandro Riminucci is the unofficial record-holder for most points scored in a series A game. According to the official record book, Carlton Myers is the holder because one day he scored 87 points. But Myers played in A2 while Riminucci scored his 77 points in the top league although against a modest La Spezia team. A Pesaro native, he played for his town team until 1956 when he was 21, he was an elegant guard, known as “The Blonde Angel”, for his thin frame and the spectacular athleticism. For years, he was famous because of the record, but there’s a lot more to him than the record. Riminucci played in Olimpia from 1956 to 1970, winning nine Italian titles and the 1966 Champions’ Cup in spite of the Bradley-Vianello combo out on the perimeter reduced his opportunities a little bit, in a period of gradual, slow decline. In 1960 he took part at the Roma Olympics
A Gorizia native, great scorer, and twice the Italian league leading scorer, Paolo Vittori was a very skilled small forward more than a fighter. In the Sixties, he was a star, playing in three Olympics edition, from Rome 1960 when he was 22 to Mexico City 1968 when he was 30. Vittori left Gorizia to play for Motomorini Bologna and after that came to Olimpia Milano. He wore the Simmenthal jersey for six seasons, winning the title in 1960, 1963 and 1965, legitimating the latter with the scoring crown, and finishing three times in second position. He left Milano in 1965, ironically just before winning the European title that conquered twice in Varese where he moved there. The trade made big noise at the time and to a certain degree it ruined Vittori’s legacy in Milano, in spite of his terrific play and results. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, moving from Varese to Milano or the other way around was big news. The move made by Vittori wasn’t an exception, in part because he was in his prime time.
Born in 1938 in Venezia, a small forward of 1.90, they say Vianello was one of the first Italian player to use a style years ahead his time. A perimeter guy, very athletic and a great scorer, he started to play for Reyer Venezia, his town’s team where he made his debut in the top league, then was moved to Varese where he won his first of his five championships. His decision to move to Milan was an historical one, was a big topic and also obstacles by Varese’s owner Guido Borghi who succeeded in stopping him basically for one season. When he arrived in Milano, Vianello was at the pinnacle of his career in terms of maturity and skills. In the great Simmenthal of the Sixties, he was one of the main players contributing, before finishing his career back in Venezia but always playing at high level (Vianello never had a single-digit scoring average in his career), to four championships and mostly to the European Championships that defined Olimpia’s history and Italian basketball history. It took place in 1966 in a very difficult edition. Simmenthal struggled to beat during the qualifying rounds the Belgians from Malines and especially the great Real Madrid team. The Spanish club was the last obstacle before the Final Four, scheduled to be play in Italy. Olimpia had to beat Real in Palalido and overcome the point differential from the first game in Madrid. Simmenthal produced a memorable game, won by 17, riding the best game of Vianello’s career. He scored 40 points, even shadowing the 27 points scored by the legendary Bill Bradley. In the Bologna’s final game against Slavia Prague, Vianello scored 21 more points and led all the scorers.
Nane Vianello had a personal best of 67 points scored in a game, he played also for Motomorini Bologna for one season and had 15 Italian league seasons, all of them scoring in double figure. He played in three Olympic Games before retiring at 34 after a season with Splugen Venezia. He lives in Venezia right now, but takes frequent trips to Thailand
Massimo Masini has been one of the greatest Italian centers ever, a player more elegant than tough, not the classic physical banger but a very smart, skilled player, beautiful to watch, with good hands. Raised in Montecatini, he arrived in Milano in 1963 when he was just 18, earned himself some minutes and in 1966 was one of the lions winning the Champions Cup in Bologna. During the following years, his role expanded and until he left Milano in 1974, Masini was one of Olimpia’s cornerstone. He won four championships, two Cup of Cups beyond the Champions’ Cup. He was on the court when Simmenthal won the historical tie-break game in Roma against Varese. In the same time he was one of the key players for the National team taking part in five European Championships and three Olympics. If Dino Meneghin, younger by five years, was the arm, the brute strength, Masini was the fluidness. After his long Milano’s story, he played for Rieti, Gira Bologna and Pordenone before embarking of a nice coaching career in Montecatini and Desio.
Giulio Iellini, a Trieste native like many superstars on the Simmenthal era, was born in 19547 and still was able to play and win the first club’s European title in 1966, as the very young sub of legendary Gianfranco Pieri. Iellini was a point guard, but not a classic one, he was an artist of the jump-shot, his attitude was a little bit one of a rebel, his look consistent with his time, long beard and longer hair. He won three italian titles as a youngster, one more as the great team’s point-guard forming a devastating back-court with Pino Brumatti, in the second of the three consecutive tie-breaking games against Ignis. He won two Cup of Cups, leaving Olimpia in 1975 to make the rival Varese stronger in the process. There he won one more European title, nine years after the first. He finished his career in Vigevano and with Lazio. He won two bronze medals at the European Championships, played two Olympics too. He was a modern player, years ahead of his time, nowadays he’d be called a “scoring-guard”. He scored 5090 points in his career. At Olimpia he was the “Number 5″. By definition.
He was a Crystal City’s banker son. Crystal City is a small place in the middle of Missouri, not far from St. Louis. He had a lot of aspirations since in the early stages of life. Bill Bradley studied a lot and was very good at it, he was open to every kind a culture, and he was curious and ambitious. Bill Bradley wanted to become the U.S. president. He failed in this regard: his run was stopped at the primary of his Democratic Party in 2000. But he was the state of New Jersey Senator for three terms, so it’s safe to say he was a very successful politician. And before he was a great athlete. Bill Bradley went to Princeton, Ivy League, and had a terrific college career. He brought Princeton to the NCAA Final Four scoring 40 points in the quarterfinals, then scored 58 points in the consolation game. He also won the Olympic gold medal at Tokyo in 1964 and when he finished his four-year career was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the New York Knicks. A perfect story.
And still he had different ideas. He wanted to study; he wanted to be perfect and moved to Oxford, making the Knicks wait two years for him.
When he returned to the States, he won two NBA titles, his jersey number 24 was retired and his career went straight to the Hall of Fame. His political career started very soon later but before… before he was in Milano. In 1965 Simmenthal chased a great European dream to validate its place in the history. The great Cesare Rubini had a terrific idea and proposed to Bradley a contract: he’d have studied and lived in London, then hopped on a plane and reunited with his teammates in time to play in the Champions’ Cup. Bradley, contacted by Sandro Gamba, accepted. He played one year in Milano. The ones lucky enough to watch him still talk about him as you talk about a legend. The practice sessions, the seriousness, the smartness, the passes, how he moved without the ball, theoutside shooting. Bradley brought Olimpia to the European title alone? It’d very superficial to say that. Olimpia had a lot of great champions, it had Pieri, Vianello, Thoren, was a formidable team but Bradley was the glue that held the team together. He gave Simmenthal whatever Simmenthal needed, points (37 against Giessen, 27 against Real Madrid in the crucial game that allowed Milano to go to the Final Four), leadership, defense. On April 1st, 1966, in the Bologna’s final game against Slavia Prague, Milano became European Champions. And Bradley took a place in the European basketball history.
He was born on July 28th in 1943, he has written also seven non-fictional books, the last one in 2012. He played in the NBA only for the New York Knicks
Ita was a different era. Duane Thoren, Skip for everybody, arrived in Milano in the summer of 1965, he won the Italian league and the Champions’ Cup, he was the Simmenthal’s American player in an era only was allowed and then another was signed only for the international competition. Alongside Thoren, there was Bill Bradley. The latter brought Princeton to the NCAA Final Four, he was famous, a recognizable name and had been drafted by the New York Knicks. But Skip Thoren was another star. At Illinois, at the end of the 1964-65 season, he had 22.2 points per game to go along 14.5 rebounds. In the final against UCLA, he had 24 points and 24 rebounds but he fouled out and his team lost. Thoren stayed one year in Milano, then he moved to the professional ranks, playing three seasons in the ABA. In the second year he averaged 16.7 points per game and he also was selected for the 1969 All-Star Game. When Simmenthal signed him he had been drafted by the NBA in the fourth round but his selection number was 30. Today he’d have been a first-round pick. In the Bologna’s final, against Slavia Pargue, he scored 21 points. Thoren was a 2.05 center, a great rebounder, not very physical but extremely capable to use the hook shot and during the 1966 Champions’ Cup the chemistry with a point-forward like Bradley was absolutely terrific.
Sandro Gamba discovered Pino Brumatti in Gorizia. The young gunner, who eventually developed a terrific jump shot, stopping on a dime, was nervous, didn’t play well and convinced Olimpia’s superscout only after he attended a game without being spotted. Gamba says that Brumatti cost him a Rolex, the one he threw away disappointed after a bad practice. But Brumatti overtime became a great player, a shooting guard unstoppable offensively, generous and capable to form with Giulio Jellini one of the most efficient back-courts in the history of Italian basketball, with the Simmenthal jersey. Brumatti was one of the players that played three tie-breaking games against Ignis, winning one, but winning also three Cup of the Cups and one Italy Cup. He’d have won more if he was born earlier or later. He peaked when Olimpia was in the middle of the rebuilding years and he was traded – after bringing Olimpia back to the top league – to Torino (competing against Milano for many years) and the played in Siena, Reggio Emilia, Verona. Pino Brumatti, who played ten seasons in Milano, died in 2010 at 62. He played 102 National team games, scoring 507 points and taking part in two Olympics, 1972 and 1976, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Renzo Bariviera is a Veneto’s native, but basketball-wise he’s an original Olimpia Milano’s product. He came to Milano very young from Padova, he contributed to a lot of great stories, then he moved on to play for other teams and came back late in his career, called by coach Dan Peterson, in order to win again. Like he always did. Bariviera has won 14 trophies in his career, and they should have been more. When he became the starting small forward for Olimpia – a great defensive stopper, an extraordinary athlete, sound passer and capable scorer – he played three tie-breaking games against Varesewinning just one of them. During those years he won twice the Cup of Cups, then he was traded and played for Bologna and Forlì, before returning at the top with Cantù. With the Cantù team, Barviera won again. A lot. Including the Champions Cup of the 1982 and 1983, to go along two more Cup of Cups. When he was 34, Dan Peterson called him in Milano per a second stint. It looked like a senseless move, for an old player. Nothing like that. With Bariviera, Olimpia won again, the Italian league in 1985 after two finals lost to Roma and Bologna (the latter particularly painful since he missed a couple of crucial free throws in the decisive game 3) and the Korac Cup in 1985.
With the National team, Bariviera had an historical role, not just because he played in two Olympics, 1972 (he scored 16 points in the bronze medal game, but Italy lost by one to Cuba) and 1976, but mostley because his hook shot at the World Championship in 1970 (Ljubljana) allowed Italy to beat the USA for the first time in a official competition.
Arthur Kenney was known as the Great Red. But everybody called him simply Arturo and in the Seventies he became symbol of the warrior mentality of Olimpia Milano, contributing to one Italian championship (but playing three tie-breaker games in as many seasons), two European Cups and one Italy Cup. And also a Champions Cup semifinal. Kenney was a strong and physical power forward who could also play as center, with a great spirit (memorable his competitive rage fueling legendary tales like the Moka Slavnic chase in Belgrade right into the stands to protect his untouchable coach Cesare Rubini) and underrated skills. A New York native, he played for the best high school team ever assembled, at the Power Memorial of Manhattan where the star was Lewis Alcindor, who later became more famous under the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a team elected into the Hall of Fame. The assistant coach for that team was Richard Percudani (the head coach, Jack Donohue brought the Canada National Team to the semifinal at the 1976 Olympics) who eventually coached Pallacanestro Milano and also in Varese.
Kenney was coming from France (and in France returned eventually), after completing a Hall of Fame career in Fairfield where he was coached by George Bisacca, who went on to coach Virtus Bologna. In Milano, he found a second home: he was loved by the fans and his teammates, he was an indomitable rebounder, learned the language (he can speak Italian even now) and left everything he had on the court. He was the anti-Meneghin in an era of a great rivalry between Milano and Varese. He stayed three years and was part of Olimpia’s history: not the best player, not the first to win a European trophy, but the first to be a fans darling and to be linked forever with the team, including his excellent post-basketball career in Wall Street (his email address is another tribute to the team and to the number he wore). In 1971/72, however, he was the team’s leading scorer, in 1972/73 he had a 61.0% from the field. During all of his three years in Milano, he was the team’s best rebounder.
Art Kenney was born in New York on May 5th 1946, played 71 league games with the Simmenthal jersey averaging 14.3 points per game and 11.8 rebounds.
He was 19 where he began to coach. Franco Casalini was hired by the Social Osa, one of the most respected minor club in Milano, and he did well enough to be called up by Simmenthal. Casalini became quickly some kind of wizard of the youth teams, winning four championships for young men and raising a generation of Olimpia’s players eventually reaching the professional status, some of them in the Olimpia top team. Gradually, as an Olimpia’s personality, Casalini moved up to the first team, under Pippo Faina and then coach Dan Peterson, forming a terrific combination coach-assistant coach. As Peterson’s top lieutenant, he was part of all the great wins between 1982 and 1987. When Peterson retired, Casalini had his great chance. And he responded, In his first year as head coach, he won the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions’ Cup, the third in the club’s history, using McAdoo, Meneghin and Rickey Brown all together. The following year, he won the Italian league in the historical Livorno’s game 5. Casalini left Olimpia after the 1989/90 seasons. Eventually he coached Forlì and Roma, returned briefly in Milano, won the Switzerland championship running the Vacallo’s team, worked as a scout for Fortitudo Bologna. And still for everybody, Casalini, born in January 1st 1952, has always been an Olimpia’s man.
280 appearances, 2746 points scored. Almost 10 points per game for a player, Vittorio Ferracini, Toio for everybody. Born in Pordenone but raised basketball-wise in Milano, never known for his scoring ability. Ferracini has always been known for his team work, a tough guy, great at setting screens, helping his teammates, make his presence feel defensively and in rebounding. He played two positions, power forward and center but when Dan Peterson needed him, in a different era, he was used also at the small forward position, a’la Bobby Jones, the forward from Philadelphia who, being not very quick or a good shooter, was able to play on the perimeter anyway. Ferracini arrived in Milano when he was 16, then was loaned to Padova and Virtus Bologna, coming back home in 1973 and staying until 1983. Basically he linked two eras of the Olimpia’s history, then one with all the tie-break games against Varese and the one started by Dan Peterson. In the middle, more complicated years. In the end, Ferracini won just the Italian league in 1982 and Cup of the Cups in 1976. Ironically those were his best years when he was a fixture of the National team winning the bronze medal at the Europeans in 1975. Ferracini is the second best rebounder in Olimpia’s history but the best in offensive rebounds and the second for games played behind Mike D’Antoni. It was a great captain too, the last before D’Antoni. At the end he played in Treviso and for Fortitudo too.
Franco Boselli belongs to the much-publicized class of 1958 born players which wah historical in the Olimpia’s youth system. along with his twin brother, Dino Boselli, he was a promising swimmer. Basketball convinced him to leave the pool and Olimpia made him a professional player very early during the rebuilding years. When Dan Peterson came to Milano, in spite of his young age, Boselli was already a cornerstone of the team. He was a “Bassoti Band” player too and his role expanded throughout the years. So he won four Italian titles, he played for the Grand Slam team in 1987 and only after that he moved to play with different teams, Forlì, Caserta and Firenze. A great shooter, he was renamed “The Baron” because of his smoothness. He never was a star but a terrific role player, smart, disciplined, team-oriented, capable to score quick points off the benchi, initially behind Mike Sylvester and later behind the great Roberto Premier.
Vittorio Gallinari is one of the guys from the class born in 1958, like the Boselli twins for example. He wasn’t particularly talented and probably he didn’t have a specific position to fill on the court. In Milano, he played center, power forward and even small forward. Coach Peterson liked him because he was a smart player, understanding of the nuances of the game, totally committed to the team, a fighter and mostly a terrific defensive player, one of the most famous in Italian basketball history. In fact, the tale he’s most remembered for took place in the 1983 playoffs finals against Roma, when ha changed the tempo of the game guarding Larry Wright, the dominating point-guard, 20 centimeters shorter and way more quick and elusive. Milano won that game but lost the next and the finals, so undeservedly Gallinari became famous forever because of a losing episode in spite of being more appropriately a big-time winner. In Milano, he won four Italian championships, one Korac Cup, the Euroleague championships and the Grand Slam of 1987, his last season in Milano and he took part in seven playoffs finals. In the second half of his career he won again playing in Pavia, Bologna, Verona, Livorno.
Mike D’Antoni has been the greatest point-guard in the Italian basketball history and also the first non-Italian captain in Olimpia (although he later became Italian not just for origin and passport but for basketball laws). D’Antoni, whose family is originated from the Umbria region, was the product of a basketball family. His father Lewis has been a legendary coach, his bigger brother Dan, who later became his assistant in the most significant NBA’s stops, was a magnificent high school coach too. The D’Antonis came from Mullens, West Virginia, Dan D’Antoni was a star at Marshall University, graduating in 1970 and earning himself a spot into the college Hall of Fame. Mike was his junior and inherited his spot at Marshall graduating in 1973 and being drafted by Kansas City of the NBA with the 20th selection. In 1974 he was named in the All-Rookie Second Team. After two and half years in Kansas City, he went to Saint Louis in the Aba and closed his career playing two games in San Antonio. He totaled 180 games, 130 in the NBA. But the end of his basketball career in the States was the start of the Italian one. In Olimpia he stayed from 1977, when he was 27, to 1990. During his stay he became Italian and played with the National team. Mostly he became, after arriving with the team in A2, the symbol of the rebirth, the charismatic leader of a team destined to win five Italian championships, two European championships, two Italy Cups, one Korac Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. D’Antoni was a pure point-guard, but also an excellent shooter, not very athletic but great defensively (because of his ability in stealing the ball he was nicknamed “Arsenio Lupin”), the classic team-player capable to improve his teammates and, when necessary, capable to win the game himself. In Olimpia’s history he’s the leading scorer (5573 points in 455 appearances, another club record), first in steals with three times the number of the second (Riccardo Pittis), in assists, in two-point field goals and three-pointers. When he retired from playing he moved to the head-coaching position bringing the team to the playoffs final. He won also a Korac Cup and led the team to the Euroleague Final Four in 1992. When he left Olimpia, he went to Treviso winning two Italian championships. In the NBA he was coach of the year in Phoenix, but also worked in Denver, New York and with the Lakers. His number 8 jersey has been retired officially by Olimpia on March 13th, 2015.
The year was 1978. Olimpia had just survived the biggest crisis in its history: relegation to A-2 at the end of the 1975-76 season, thus playing in A-2 in 1976-77. Then, in 1977-78, the team nearly ‘dropped down’ again. With this, Olimpia hired Dan Peterson, coach of Virtus Bologna the previous five seasons, 1973-78. ‘The Coach’ is a native of Evanston, just north of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. Peterson would take over for Filippo ‘Pippo’ Faina, who succeeded the legendary Cesare Rubini in 1974-75, as Rubini’s long-time assistant, Sandro Gamba, had taken over Varese in 1973-74. Faina had done what he could, even winning the 1975-76 European Cup of Cup Winners, but unable to avoid that fatal relegation, though he did bring the team back up to A-1 for the post-season in 1976-77. In April of 1978, however, Faina resigned from Olimpia.
During the 1980 summer, Billy, looking for the right combination to win the championship, tried to hit a home-run by bringing in Milano the number 3 player from the NBA draft, Kevin McHale. Traded for Joe Barry Carroll, another future Milano’s player, McHale was struggling to find an agreement with the Boston Celtics and came to Milano to force the issue. At the last minute, the Celtics made their move bringing him back to the States. With one week to go before the start of the season, Coach Peterson pick a veteran player, John Gianelli, a power forward more than a center, educated hands, very smart, defensive-oriented. He was criticized early. He used to play showing no emotions and was nicknamed “Pisolo”, “Sleepy”. By reading his Milano’s numbers would be very easy to form a different opinion. In three seasons, Gianelli averaged more than 16 points per game and during the first two seasons he also grabbed more than 12 rebounds per game. His shooting percentages went up every single season. During the 1981-82 season, the championship year, he averaged 39.1 minutes per game. He was also the guy making the decisive block on Mike Sylvester clinching the title against Pesaro. He stayed one more year, played the Champions Cup final, losing by one point against Cantù. Maybe he was one of the greatest and still most underrated American players in Olimpia’s history. Born in 1950, he was a Californian of Italian blood, had a spectacular college career at Pacific, and went on to play in the NBA, earning a rotation spot with the New York Knicks winning the 1973 championship along Bill Bradley. In 1976 he was one of the players traded to Buffalo for McAdoo, confirming the sequence of coincidences linked to Olimpia, from McHale-Carroll to Bradley and McAdoo.
He was Gianmario Gabetti and he knew his way around basketball. His family sponsored the rival team of Cantù and the passion ran through his blood although in the Olimpia’s adventure he was all alone, with no help from his great father. Gabetti has been the club’s owner in the after-Bogoncelli era and as a fact the man that made the great dynasty of the Eighties possible with Dan Peterson as the coach and then hitting some home-runs in the trading market from the biggest one, Dino Meneghin acquired from Varese, to the most creative ones in the States, like Antoine Carr, a first-round pick from the Pistons, Bob McAdoo, Joe Barry Carroll. With Gabetti leading the organization, Olimpia won five Italian titles, completed the 1987 Grand Slam and twice won the Euroleague. With Mike D’Antoni on the bench, another of his choices, and Darryl Dawkins in the middle, Olimpia made it to the Euroleague Final Four in 1992 in Istanbul but didn’t have much luck and was beaten in the semifinal game by Partizan Belgrade. It was some sort of last hurrah because even after the last, great signing, Aleksandar Djordjevic, the only won trophy was the Korac Cup and a little later the team was sold to Bepi Stefanel. It’s obvious that with Gabetti at the helm, Olimpia made history locally and nationally.
Dino Meneghin closed his legendary career between Trieste and the return to Milano because he was a miracle of longevity, and still his true career was the one that in the 70s had him as the cornerstone of the great Varese team and in the 80s of the Milano’s one. Born in Alano di Piace, in the Belluno province, but raised in Varese, he began his basketball career leaving the shot-put and quickly becoming a star. After being crucial in the Varese’s dynasty establishing himself as the Milano’s principal opponent, in 1981 he was traded to Olimpia while Varese was about to close its golden era and Milano was about to start its one. In spite of postponing his debut because of an injury, Meneghin changed the story of the big Dan Peterson’s team, leading it to the Italian title in 1982 and to eight consecutive finals appearances including five victories, plus two European championships, a Korac Cup, the 1987 Grand Slam. He formed a terrific tandem of big men with fantastic players, like John Gianelli in the beginning, Joe Barry Carroll giving away many offensive responsibilities, and finally Bob McAdoo. Meneghin, a rebounder, a defensive player, a great leader and fighter, was the Italian National team top player until 1984. A better offensive player that he was credited for, a physically terrific center, he was the first Italian to be elected to the Springfield Hall of Fame as a player. His Milano’s experience was also remembered for some controversial episodes, like the ejection from the Bologna’s final series in 1984 that forced him to miss the decisive game 3, probably the key factor of the series. With the Italian National Team he won the European championship in 1983, the silver medal at the 1980 Olympics, in 1970 he was drafted by Atlanta and in 1974 he received an offer to join the New York Knicks team, the first Italian to gain NBA’s attention.
His nickname was the Ariete because, yes, he was a guard but his weight clocked often over 100 kg and he drove head-first, fearless. But Roberto Premier, born in Spresiano in the January of 1958, was a terrific shooter and came to Milano, in the summer of 1981 for his characteristics of perimeter player with range and heart. Coach Dan Peterson experienced some early difficulties in forcing him to adjust his play to the defensive responsibilities necessary in a top team after Premier was a terrific scorer in Gorizia, the classic run and un team. Eventually Premier adjusted, forced to do so by the Peterson rule: “You stay on the court until your guy score then you come out, regardless of what you are doing offensively”. He gradually became a team cornerstone, the chosen shooter, the fighter. He won five championships, two European titles and a Korac Cup too. He went on to play for the National team in an era particularly rich in the position (think about Antonello Riva, who eventually took his place in Milano, or Enrico Gilardi in Roma) and took part in the number1984 Olympics. He’s the all-time second best scorer in Olimpia with 4813 points, behind D’Antoni, but he’s also the leader for free throws made with 908. His last game for Olimpia was in Livorno. It finished with the win, the championship and a brawl with the local fans. And Premier in the middle of them all.
Joe Barry Carroll’s arrival in Milano was the product of lucky circumstances. The number 1 pick of the number1980 NBA draft, he was part of an historic trade, when Robert Parish and the number 3 pick (used to select the great Kevin McHale) were moved from Golden State to Boston in exchange of the number1. Carroll, as a fact. JB did well enough with the Warriors to establish himself as one of the most skilled, elegant and offensively efficient center in the league. A 20 point-per game scorer (20.5 the season before coming to Milano, 24.1 the previous one), in 1984 he was a free -agent but still under the Warriors control. The contractual crisis became very nasty, Carroll did not report and in the end to force the issue accepted Milano’s offer. It was clear that a player of his caliber couldn’t stay more than one year but in that specific season Milano watched the player America never saw. Thanks to the fantastic atmosphere inside the team, Carroll showed not just skills and class but also physicality and heart. In the brutal Premier’s hugging at the end of the title game in Pesaro there was the essence of his season. Anchored by Carroll, Olimpia became the first ever team to stay perfect in the playoff. It also won the Korac Cup and unfortunately couldn’t play in the Champion’s Cup. Carroll came to replace Wally Walker, a small forward, savvy NBA veteran. In reality he was meant to replace the young Russ Schoene but at the last minute he raised his game and convinced Peterson to keep him at the 3 position. It was a courageous move. To insert Carroll, Peterson had to basically play with two centers, two inside guys and moreover Meneghin, who was scoring more than 20 points per game, had to adjust to a secondary offensive role. It was changed a team working very well but with Carroll, it became almost unplayable in Italy. And Carroll completed his first and only winning season.
Riccardo Pittis, a product of the Milano’s youth system, to become a great player had to overcome a cardiac malfunction at birth and eventually a right hand injury that forced him to shoot free-throws left-handed. But at that time he had already moved from Milano to Treviso, a dominant club of the era. The first Pittis was a different player from the last version. MIlano’s Pittis was a perimeter guy, with a great ball-handling, athletic, defensive oriented and a good shooter. His coaches dreamed about making him a 2-meter point-guard. Peterson thought of him as the Italian Magic Johnson. Pittis became early a top team rotation player. He was decisive at 18 in the finals series against Caserta completing the Peterson’s Grand Slam of 1987. Olimpia was short of energy by the time it had to play Game 3 of the Finals, in spite of being up 2-0. Caserta, very young and courageous, took a 19-point lead early in the game, feeling a sensational rally. Peterson, desperate, sent Pittis on the court. He made two threes, stole a ball, scored 10 points and ignited a furious rally to lead Milano to the win and the championship. One year later he became important in the Champions’ Cup triumph. Then he won another Italian championship in 1989, helped the team moving to the next D’Antoni-led era, moving gradually to a position closer to the basket, his natural position in Treviso, where he arrived in 1993.
Russ Schoene induction into the Olimpia’s Hall of Fame is almost a miracle. After starring for the University of Chattanooga-Tennessee, he was drafted in the second round (number 45) by the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and traded to Indiana after a few months. He stayed with the Pacers for one and half seasons and in 1984 he arrived in Milano. It was the team coached by Dan Peterson and led by Mike D’Antoni and Dino Meneghin. It was also a team coming from two devastating losses in the Italian league finals, in 1983 against Roma and in 1984 against Bologna. But the first few games by Schoene were not very brilliant. Olimpia, at the time, was always looking to hit an home-run on the American market. It was able to get through the Earl Cureton case making up with Antoine Carr, the year before. Schoene didn’t have a definite position. He was 2.08, he played center in college, but in Milano Meneghin was the starting center and he was penciled at the power forward position while the othe American player, Wally Walker, was the small forward. When Olimpia was close to sign the great Joe Barry Carroll, the common idea was to cut Schone. If that was going to happen nobody would have had anything to say and Schoene’d have been forgotten. Instead… instead, at the last minute, Schoene’s game took off and coach Peterson had a great idea, moving him to the perimeter to use his outside shot. The move worked out for the best: Olimpia in 1984/85 used Carroll, Meneghin and Schiene all together winning the Italian league and the Korac Cup. If Carroll dominated the playoffs, Schoene was the hero in the Korac Cup final against Varese. One year later, he took another step and was basically the team best player. In 1986 because of his two great years in Milano, Schoene moved back to the NBA, in Seattle. He’d have returned in Italy toward the end of his career playing for Verona and then Bologna.
No player in the Italian League could be considered more important and famous than Bob McAdoo when he signed to play in Milano. It wasn’t just because his brilliant career in the NBA. Unlike many American stars in Italy, he was very known by Italian fans, because his reputation and also because he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers during a time when NBA games started to become a fixture on Italian TV but the teams broadcasted were always the same, the most important, Lakers included. So McAdoo was a real star, he had played one year for Dean Smith at North Carolina, was drafted with the number 2 pick and was a perennial star in the League. He was the NBA leading scorer three times, he was a 5-time All-Star and in 1975 the league’s MVP playing for the Buffalo Braves. He played also for the Knicks and the Celtics, but those were very difficult years for the historical franchises and Bob developed a label as a talented player, a scorer but a selfish one, a big player but only for mediocre teams.
His career turned for the best toward the end when Pat Riley proposed him to ensure quick points off the bench for the Lakers. McAdoo, used mostly as a sixth man, won two NBA championships in 1982 and 1985, showing his trait as a winning player, a generous and unselfish one, too. That was the player, Dan Peterson decided to bring to Milano. When he left the Lakers, he played briefly in Philadelphia but in the summer of 1986 he was ready to come to Italy. Olimpia didn’t listen to anybody. He was 35, he could’ve been demotivated, but Peterson trusted his guts. And McAdoo was signed. At the end, his development was very similar to the Joe Barry Carroll’s one, but JB was in the middle of his NBA career, stayed one season, came back to the NBA and never again experienced those feelings. McAdoo stayed four years, played for the Grand Slam team, won another European title in his second season and another Italian championship in the third. He felt so good in Italy that in 1990, when the big Olimpia’s cycle identified with D’Antoni and Meneghin finished, he simply moved to Forli where he met his wife Patrizia and also played a couple games in Fabriano.
Making him an unforgettable player were not just the big wins or the extraordinary stats (he averaged 27.3 points per game in the Italian league playing 199 games, in Milano he had 28.1 points per game in 1987/88), the mid-range jumper (in 1988 he shot 60.3% from two attempting more than 17 shots per game), his terrific skills, his rebounding efficiency (10.2 per game in his first season) but also the little details demonstrating his unselfishness and winning mentality. The blocked shot he made to preserve the Lausanne’s win over Maccabi in the European final in 1987 against Maccabi or even the dive to keep Alberto Tonut from scoring in game 5 of the 1989 Italian league final.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1951 (25 September), McAdoo played four seasons for Olimpia, wearing the number 15 when in the NBA he used to play with the 11 (not in New York, where he wore the 21). Once he finished playing basketball, he became a coach, in the Miami Heat coaching staff where he won the NBA championship in 2006 (under Pat Riley) and in 2012.
Recruited in Corsico, very, very young, Flavio Portaluppi is an original youth system product. A shooting guard, he was always considered too short or too thin or not athletic enough to play at the highest levels, but he was able to kill every kind of preconception about him, because of smartness, determination, a devastating outside shot, improved by a surprising quickness in the release. In Olimpia’s history is second to Mike D’Antoni for three-pointers made and on 1103 attempts he has an extraordinary 44.9% (he’s also third all-time in the free-throw shooting percentage with 87.5%). Loaned to Arese in A2, he used that year to score more than 20 points per game earning the return to Olimpia to become some kind of symbol. He played for Mike D’Antoni and Bogdan Tanjevic, won the championship and the Italy Cup in 1996, and in the former he was also the guy making the closing three-pointer in Milano (game 4, against Fortitudo Bologna). In the first half of his career, Portaluppi played for a solid team that made three European cups finals, winning one, the 1993 Korac Cup, plus one semifinal and a trip to the Final Four missed in a decisive home game against Ljiubljana; then he was involved in the dark years and finished his career in Cremona and Castelletto Ticino, just to be back in Olimpia, as a team-manager initially, a general manager eventually, earning himself a Mr.Olimpia’s tag on his resume.
The two years Dejan Bodiroga spent in Milano have been obviously short but very intense. During his reign, Olimpia made it to two Korac Cup finals (losing both of them, against Alba Berlin and Efes Pilsen Istanbul) but in 1996 it won Italy Cup and the league championship. Bodirga basically fled away from his native country of Serbia in the middle of the civil war in the 90′s. Bogdan Tanjevic brought him to Trieste where he played for two seasons. Then Bepi Stefanel moved the team or, better, the best players (Nando Gentile, Sandro De Pol, Davide Cantarello, Gregor Fucka) and the coach in Milano, where this group of players had two fantastic seasons before Bodiroga himself left to Real Madrid. Particularly, the league title in 1996 was won by him, in the crucial Game 3, on the road, in Bologna, because with a face-up jump shot Bodiroga gave Olimpia the win. In game 4, the then-Stefanel completed the job. Bodiroga left Milano when he was 24. Later, he’d have won in Madrid, with Panathinaikos (again playing along Nando Gentile), in Barcelona before coming back to Italy and closing his career in Roma. With the Serbian National team he won two World Championships and the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics. He never played in the NBA but he was drafted when he was in Milano by the Sacramento Kings.
Nando Gentile arrived in Milano in 1994 along the group of Trieste’s players moved by Bepi Stefanel with the coach Bogdan Tanjevic. He stayed in Milano four years: he was the team’s captain when Olimpia won the Italian title and the Italy Cup in 1995/96 losing the Korac Cup in the final (he had an unlucky realtionships with the international competitions: with Caserta he lost the Cup of the Cups against Real Madrid the night Drean Petrovic scored 62 points; with Trieste he lost the Korac Cup against Paok; with Milano he lost the same trophy twice against Alba Berlin and Efes Istanbul and then European Cup in 1998 against Zalgiris) and so missing the “Little Slam”. His history really began in Caserta and during those years he was the enemy, more or less, because Caserta twice made it to the finals only to lose to the big Dan Peterson coached teams. He took his revenge in 1991 when he led Caserta to the win in Game 5 at Forum winning in spite of the devastating knee injury that took Enzo Esposito out in the first half. That championship was the highest point in Juve Caserta’s history. Two years later, Gentile was traded to Trieste when his coach and mentor Tanjevic was already working. When Mr. Stefanel moved the Trieste’s team to Milano he followed the path and became Olimpia’s face for four years. In 1997, he had a devastating knee injury ehn the team was competing to reach the Euroleague’s Final Four in spite of losing Dejan Bodiroga and Rolando Blackman the previous summer. One year later, Stefanel with a great rally over Panathinaikos, made it to the European Cup final in Geneva, losing to Zalgiris. At the end of that season, with the team on the verge of getting dismantled, Gentile signed for Panathinaikos in Greece, where he won three league titles and the 2000 Euroleague, losing the final one year later in Paris against Maccabi. Gentile was a point guard of terrific strength, lefty, a shooter with great personality, charisma. A true leader who also won the silve rmedal at the 1991 European Championship in Rome. He’s the father of Alessandro and Stefano Gentile, the former an Olimpia’s captain too.
He played in Milano only for one year and didn’t enter in the history books like a Joe Barry Carroll or a Bill Bradley, but Rolando Blackman did extraordinary things anyway. 1995/96 Olimpia won the Italy Cup and then duplicated that success in the playoffs. In the finals, it beat 3-1 Fortitudo Bologna. That season, Stefanel Milano started the playoffs from the fifth place. Although the most important field goal of the series probably was the one scored by Dejan Bodiroga in Bologna to win game 3 and the one identified as the definitive field goal was made by Flavio Portaluppi in game 4, Rolando Blackman was likely the most consistent player. He scored 19 points in game 4, 20 points in game 3 and 18 in game 1. He scored 24 against Mash Verona in the Italy Cup final in the Forum. Blackman remained just one year because he was at the end of his run and the family wanted him back in the States. But it was a great year after a marvelous NBA career, with the Dallas Mavericks mostly and finally in New York where he made the 1994 NBA Finals but as a bit player. Blackman was a pure shooting guard, elegant, beautiful to watch, a player worthy 17623 points for his career. Born and raised in Panama, he was the number 9 draft pick in 1981 just out of Kansas State, he had a terrific mid-range jumper and could handle the ball. When he came to Milan he was 36 but he could have easily played two or three more years.