Ettore Messina receiving his medal after CSKA Moscow's VTB League triumph (photo: Mikhail Serbin)
For the third time in as many years, CSKA Moscow have overcome bitter disappointment at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four to be crowned both VTB United League and Russian champions.
The team of Ettore Messina, who is expected to officially confirm his departure from Moscow in the coming days after a second two-year stint at the helm, completed a 3-0 sweep of Nizhny Novgorod at the weekend to lift the VTB League trophy.
CSKA were also proclaimed Russian champions in the process, as the now defunct Russian PBL merged with the regional competition this season.
Unlike in previous years however, CSKA's final dominance seemed anything but unavoidable upon their return from a disastrous Euroleague Final Four in late May.
The Moscow side suffered two defeats, to Maccabi Tel Aviv and FC Barcelona, in Milan and returned home to the seemingly impossible task of overturning a 2-0 deficit in their quarter-final series against Lokomotiv Kuban, with Games 3 and 4 of the series in Krasnodar.
As if that was not a tall enough order, the defending champions could not count anymore on the services of winger Vladimir Micov and guard Aaron Jackson, both sidelined through injury.
The Serbian duo of Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic however came up with inspirational displays on successive days and helped CSKA eke out two close wins on the road to tie the series at 2-2.
The Muscovites then claimed a comfortable win at home, 84-65 behind 18 points from Krstic, and sealed their passage to the semi-finals against all odds.
Messina's men had now truly recovered the path to success after that patch of four consecutive losses, the worse ever during the reign of the Italian coach, and their winning streak continued until the final game of the post-season.
CSKA overcame the enormous hurdle of Eurocup runners-up UNICS Kazan in the semi-finals with a 3-0 sweep and once again they had to do it the hard way, emerging victorious from the first two clashes on the road.
Milos Teodosic was named MVP of the play-offs after leading his team in points and assists
In Game 3 in Moscow, CSKA punched their ticket to the Finals as Russian international Vitaly Fridzon poured in 20 points and Teodosic added 17 points and four assists to propel the hosts to a 92-86 victory.
Messina's side had gathered so much momentum by that point that few were surprised when they started off the title series against Nizhny Novgorod with two consecutive wins on the road and then picked up an 82-66 victory at home in Game 3, behind 20 points from Sasha Kaun, to retain their crown.
"I'm grateful to the team, the players, they did something incredible," the Italian tactician commented.
"They were united, they played with desire, helped each other out and finished these play-offs on a 9-0 run.
"We had ups and downs this season, but at the end we played consistently and acted like a team, with an enormous sense of responsibility and overcame the resistance of very strong opponents."
Teodosic, who had 16 points and six assists in Game 3 of the Finals and completed this VTB League campaign as his team's leader in both scoring (12.7 points per game) and assists (5.6 per game) was named MVP of the play-offs.
"I'm happy that we've done this although we didn't have the home-court advantage," the Serbian point guard said.
"In my mind, we became a really great team.
"Even at the Euroleague Final Four we played well but we weren't lucky.
"Now we showed our character. I'm really happy to be a part of such a great team.
"We had a lot of good moments [this season], although the best would have been winning the Euroleague.
"But, you know, this is the best moment right now. We're champions."