I’ve been trying to put my feelings down on paper for a while now about Simone Pianigiani officially leaving Hapoel Jerusalem to most probably sign with Milano and it’s taken some time to do so. It took time because I wanted to appropriately express my feelings about our league’s loss of one of Europe’s finest coaches and individuals.
I covered Coach Pianigiani all season long from the first league game all the way to the championship contest against Maccabi Haifa at Yad Eliyahu plus all of the other games in between. Whether it was a league game in Ashkelon against Kiryat Gat, or a EuroCup clash against Zenit, Coach always had time for me and the press.
He showed patience and humility each and every time he featured at the podium. From his long answers to the short (though there were not so many) Pianigiani always gave us more than we could have ever wanted. He was a true gentleman and a mentsch.
For a full season we were privileged, yes privileged to have a coach of the stature of Simone Pianigiani with us in Israel. It’s not every day or every season that a man of his caliber comes to the Holy Land to ply his trade and we were lucky enough to have one season with the Italian maestro on the sidelines.
From our small talk in the corridors about basketball, life and Israel to the handshakes and congratulations, Pianigiani was always game for a conversation. He has a brilliant basketball mind and came away with arguably the best season in Jerusalem’s history. The Winner League championship, the semifinals of the EuroCup and the State Cup Final, that’s not bad for a year’s work. Did he falter at times? Yes, it happens to the best of them, but that shouldn’t overshadow the mission he was on with ownership and management. To help build the Jerusalem Basketball brand.
Pianigiani was very clear over the last month about the successful season the team had and the importance of building that brand in which he succeeded. Would I have liked to see him stay for the full length of his contract? Certainly, but everyone has their own lives to live and decisions to make and his was to most probably return home to Italy.
I first met Pianigiani in Israel a number of years ago when he was coaching the Italian National Team and even then I knew what kind of coach he was. I remember stopping him on the stairs up from the Yad Eliyahu locker rooms just to say a few words to the man who had been one of the most dominating coaches of our time winning 6 Italian league championships with Montepaschi Siena between 2007-2012. He was fantastic then as he was all season long with Jerusalem.
Pianigiani will most probably be back at the site of his greatest Israeli accomplishment as coach of Milano tipping off against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Euroleague action. So until then I’d like to say Arrivederci, “until we see each other again”.