D’Antoni participated in the inaugural McDonald’s Open in 1987 with Milan.
In 1990, an Italian publication named D’Antoni Italy’s all-time best point guard
D’Antoni: Italian Legend Speaks
Minutes after practice ended, we asked Coach D’Antoni how high his emotions were running now that he’s returned to Italy for oh, a few hours.
“I don’t want to be sappy or anything,” said D’Antoni, “but I’m really happy to be practicing with my guys, whether it’s in Tuscon or Italy. Italy just makes it better but we got a great group of guys that any coach, you’d be excited to be with them and you put Italy on top of that and my emotions are pretty strong right now, so it’s good.”
What about being spread too thin? The well wishers, the potential distractions?
“I’ll see a few friends and stuff,” said D’Antoni. “The good thing about living here for 21 years, is I’ve seen everything. So I’ll be at the hotel, see some friends, have some meals and other than that it’s basketball as usual and that makes it a bit easier for me.”
D’Antoni: Cultural Tour Guide
Who better to guide his team off the court than D’Antoni. So, what’s on his cultural to-do list?
“I’m going to give them a little time to do what they can do,” said D’Antoni. “In a sense of, we have some things organized like a trip to Venice and in Rome some private tours and stuff. Not a whole lot but just want them to make sure that they can play enough to get their work done but at that same time like everything. So, nothing special but Italy is special doing nothing special.”
Oh, By the Way, Coach, How Was Practice?
“Good,” said D’Antoni. “After 14 hours on a plane, we just really wanted to get over our jet lag and this was the best way of doing. I got some teaching in. The guys were good.”
Leandro and Maximus?
While Leandro Barbosa in anxious to explore Treviso in his first-ever visit to Italy, he’s also looking ahead to Rome where he will undoubtedly be toting his camera.
“You know the movie, Gladiator? I want to go inside the Coliseum. I know its bad energy because a lot of people died in there but even though it’s bad, I want to go in there and see how that feels.”
Skinny From Vinny on Amaré
He underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee and recently had an MRI exam on his right one, yet Amaré Stoudemire is intent on returning to the Amaré Stoudemire of old, you know, the one who averaged 37 points per game against Tim Duncan and the Spurs back in the 2005 Western Conference Finals. We asked Suns Director of Player Personnel Vinny Del Negro, who sees Amaré every day how he’s progressing.
“I think he looks OK,” said Del Negro. “He doesn’t look very good in my opinion. He’s got a long way to go, I think he understands that but he’s working hard, he’s staying consistent with it and it’s going to be a gradual thing. His knee is structurally very healthy and it just going to be time until he gets all of the kinks out and we have a good enough team to wait for him but we want him to get to get healthy as quick as possible but we’re going to be smart with it and we’ve talked about it a lot. We’ll keep an eye on it but he’s going to continue to progress and we need him to get healthy.”
Don’t Forget About Vinny
While a lot of the focus centers on Mike D’Antoni’s return to Italy, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Vinny Del Negro took a two-year NBA sabbatical to help lead Benetton to the Italian League championship in the early ’90s, an accomplishment that makes the former 12-year NBA veteran beam.
“It’s great to come back to Treviso and see a lot of passionate people. They’re very passionate about sports and obviously basketball is a big part of it here.
“We had won the championship, it was the first time they had done that. It was a memorable experience from that aspect. A lot of good teammates, a lot of good found memories.” The Benetton family not only treated me great but my family as well. It was just a fun atmosphere.”
Lastly, a Word or Two From Nash
We asked Steve Nash about the D’Antoni legend here in Italy and here’s what he had to say:
“We all know he had a terrific career and we’re happy to come back and be part of his legacy here,” said Nash. “It’s fun for us to get a little bit of an education of what he meant here.”
More: NBA.com's John Hareas blogs from Treviso