|Ettore Messina on Saturday denied media speculation that the reason behind his resignation was a fall-out with the Real Madrid players|
The Ettore Messina era is over at Real Madrid.
The Italian tactician, who led CSKA Moscow to European and Russian success and was hoping to do the same for Real Madrid, stunned Spanish and European basketball on Friday by stepping down as coach of a club that is just three wins shy of an appearance at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four.
Messina has left after back-to-back defeats in the ACB at Power Electronics Valencia and Blancos de Rueda Valladolid, and a 95-77 home demolition at the hands of Montepaschi Siena, who are led by Italy national team coach, Simone Pianigiani.
The Euroleague game had no ramifications on the Top 16 standings, with Madrid having already sewn up a first place in Group G ahead of Siena.
Madrid will face Valencia in a best-of-five game quarter-final series, with the Games 1 and 2 in Madrid on March 22 and 24.
Messina's assistant and good friend, Emanuele Molin, has been handed the reins for the remainder of the campaign.
At a press conference on Saturday morning, Messina said: "It's normal and right to thank the club for allowing me this opportunity.
"It has been a very interesting year and a half, with many important experiences.
"This doesn't happen very often to people.
"I respect those that have criticized me and thank those that have supported me.
"I wish the best for the team for the future.
"I have tried to find a union on and off the court because it's crucial to have that in order to get results.
"It has been a difficult spell. We have had irregular results. Better to leave when things are well."
Messina made a controversial decision earlier this year to drop Spain veteran Jorge Garbajosa from the first team because of the potential of Nikola Mirotic.
The Montenegrin-born Spain international has justified the move with solid performances in the ACB and the Euroleague.
"I have been happy with how the team has done," Messina said.
"I have taken decisions during the season but my decisions were based on helping the team, protecting a young team.
"After the team reached the last 16 of the Euroleague, the team stopped playing. When you are fighting for them and for the work done, you expect the players to understand and take a step forward.
"I just hope what is happening will give the team a sense of maturity and a sense of responsibility that it is lacking to become a top team. I am convinced that the team can be in the final four."
Messina wanted to make it clear that he had given up a lot just to help Madrid.
"I have sacrificed a one and a half year contract and being in the final four in 15 days," he said.
"If I have done that is to bring unity.
"Perhaps one day I will return to coach here."
Now Molin has the biggest opportunity of his career.
Messina's long-time assistant has a chance to lead one of the giants of Spain.
"The new coach is capable of doing great things," Messina said.
"He is a friend before a great coach.
"I am happy because if the club thinks it is good to have continuity, then it means the technical side has done well."