Olimpia, a star is born

Cesare Rubini in action as a player. The so-called Principe was also an outstanding waterpolo player of world caliber. He won the 1948 Olympics in the pool, giving up his spot in the basketball team

The Olimpia basketball club was born in 1936 under the sign of winning. The first season when the team used Olimpia as its name was a success. In reality, hi story is much more confused and complicated than that. The team was born because of a Count Borletti’s idea. He considered the team some kind of afterwork passtime. According to that era reconstruction, the team was founded in 1930 ma years later the historical president Adolfo Bogoncelli decided by himself that the correct date of birth was 1936. So date of birth and date of first title are the same! Enrico Castelli was the Captain, Giannino Valli the coach. The following season, Sergio Paganella came aboard. He was one of the first great center of Italian basketball.

Borletti won four consecutive “scudetti”, Ginnastica Triestina stooped its march in the 1939/40 season and one year later with a renovated team and after Borletti’s dead, the team became a bad one and confined in the bottom of the standing. It came back but those were the war years, in 1943 just three games were played. After the conflict the team was not the same anymore and also the legendary Giannino Valli was replaced as coach.

In the meantime the Olimpia we know about today was about to reborn. Adolfo Bogoncelli, born in Treviso but coming from Trieste, fall in love with basketball in Modena and when he founded a team in Milano using Action Party money, he called it Triestina. After the war no money were still coming fron the Party and the team was moved to Como, looking for money. Borletti was relegated in the second division at the time. Enter Bogoncelli: he was a visionary, he merged his team with Borletti and tje product was the team we can safely call Olimpia. Borletti became the main sponsor, Bogoncelli was the president. In that capacity in 1949 he bought from Venice, the scorer Sergio Stefanini, who had already won two italian titles and kept the streak alive in Milano. To coach the team was called Cesare Rubini. Bogoncelli and Rubini were going to form the first great president-coach couple in the history of Italian basketball.

Bogoncelli was a visionary, a genius. He invented sponsorships first with Borletti then with the historical Simmenthal brand, he created a market for players, he spread basketball everywhere in Italy bringing the Harlem Globetrotters during the years when that team was the most famous and also the best in the world because of the afro-american players – basically banned from the NBA – including the phenomenal Wilt Chamberlain. Bogoncelli invented Rubini as a player-coach and under his wing was created also the first coach-assistant coach great duo in Italian basketball with Rubini and Sandro Gamba. Rubini was the master motivator, a charismatic coach. Gamba was the basketball scientist.

In 1966 Bogoncelli brought in Milano as a foreigner for the Cup competition, the college player of the year, Bill Bradley, who had moved to Oxford postponing his NBA debut by two years. The last great move of his extraordinary managing career was the signing of Dam Peterson as head coach after hand-picking Toni Cappellari as a general manager after Rubini left. He basically created another great duo: Cappellari-Peterson.

Bogoncelli left basketball and Olimpia opening the door to the Gabetti family in 1980. Up to then, Olimpia had won 19 titles, the last 15 under his magic wing.

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