Storia;

1981

Here comes Dino Meneghin

The  first title in the Peterson era arrived in 1982, not coincidentally during the first season with Dino Meneghin playing for Olimpia. Born in Alano di Piave but raised in Varese, Meneghin was an early-age phenomenon when he quitted as a shot-putter to become the best center in the Italian basketball history. In Varese he debutted in the top league very early and he started winning immediately, epitomizing a dynasty along players like Bob Morse, Aldo Ossola, Ivan Bisson. The Varese team reaching 10 consecutive European finals, winning five of them, was his team. So Meneghin became also a traditional enemy for Olimpia, basically THE enemy.

But Varese era finished in the summer of 1981 when the owner GUido Borghi left the club determining the trade of Dino Meneghin. Gianmario Gabetti, fresh on the job of Olimpia’s new owner, decided it was mandatory for him to get Meneghin. And so the trade was consummated and Meneghin left a team to join the enemy, although with no Meneghin and no more Morse (he went to Antibes) Varese became just another team in terms of aspirations. But Olimpia changed its outlook: with Meneghin starting at center (his first season in Milano was initially marred by a knee injury), it had a powerful team with Vittorio Ferracini or Vittorio Gallinari playing the small forward position, John Gianelli as a power forward and two shooters like Franco Boselli and Roberto Premier, acquired from Gorizia. Mike D’Antoni as a point-man played basically until he could with the young Marco Lamperti ready to replace him when nothing else was possible.

The beginning was difficult: Olimpia lost to Rieti at Home, at the end of November its was destroyed in Pesaro 110-65, humiliated by Dragn Kicanovic. Meneghin made his debut on December 6, in Rieti and it was another big loss. Olimpia went to Varese, the very first game in Varese as an enemy for Meneghin, and it was another loss. Still, the team won 12 of the last 13 games in the regular season, had a difficult playoff first-round series against Brescia winning Game 3 only in the closing minutes. The semifinals was against Torino. It won Game 1 on the road (Framco Boselli scored 20) but just by one in Game 2. The final was against the Scavolini team led by former player Mike Sylvester. Billy, that’s the sponsor name, played a terrific Game 1 in Pesaro winning 89-86 and then saved the day and the championship in Game 2. It was tje championship number 20, the second star. The decisive play was the last one, a memorable block by Gianelli on a Sylvester attempt to win the game. It was an historical game: coach Petar Skansi for Scavolini had Kicanovic coming off the bench, inexplicably. Gianelli scored 39 points in two games, becoming one of the greatest Americanns in Olimpia’s history: he was white, he wasn’t spectacularm he was solid, with shooting skills and great smartness.

The championship signaled the start of a new era. The following season Olimpia reacjed the final in the Champions Cup only to lose to Cantù by one point in Grenoble (Boselli had the winning shot, a makeable mid-range jump shot that he missed) and lost also the league finals against Roma, a team led by an immensely talented point-man named Larry Wright. In 1984 it was Knorr Bologna’s turn to beat Olimpia, although the disqualification of Dino Meneghin before the decisive Game is still a nightmare per every fan.

The second-place curse stopped in 1985, the season when the big building in San Siro crashed under the weight of a huge snowing storm. Olimpia began the season with Russ Schoene and Wally Walker as Americans. The former, a young forward, struggled in the beginning, while the latter was more experienced and with a solid reputation. But when the team was about to sign incredibly the great Joe Barry Carroll, coach Dan Peterson had a surprising idea: he realeased Walker and kept Schoene, moving him to the small forward position and implementing a two-heade center thanks to Carroll and Meneghin. Schoene became a huge part of the team, he was the best during the Korac Cup final. Carroll came to Milano because of a contractual dispute with his NBA team. the Golden State Warriors. A former NBA draft first pick, he had fantastic skills, size, talent and not much aggressiveness. In the States they called him Joe Barely Care… But in Milano he found the right atmosphere, had a terrific season, lead Olimpia to the championship unbeaten in the playoff and went back to the NBA. Schoene instead stayed in Milano and won the championship again. In 1985 Pesaro was beaten in the finals, in 1986 it was CAserta’s turn, the young Caserta team with Nando Gentile and a terrific shooter named Oscar Schmidt. After two staright championships, three under coach Peterson, it was time to win in Europe again.

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