Bologna, september 18 –
Virtus Segafredo Bologna president Massimo Zanetti introduced Luca Banchi during the press conference of the new head coach.
“Today is a big celebration because we are introducing a great coach, a coach who won the award for best coach of the World Cup. I told him earlier in the meeting we had before, he was elected and I had to take it by popular vote, because all the fans, on social media, people who were calling me all wanted Banchi. I had also talked to another great coach, De Raffaele, however everyone wanted Banchi so I gladly asked the coach if he would agree to come to Bologna, and he immediately said yes. Coming to Virtus must be an honor, one must come there with pleasure, with the satisfaction of being part of this family. Why did I want this meeting this morning? Because Virtus is somehow mine, I feel obliged to defend it. Virtus is the most important basketball team in Italy, said by the Gazzetta dello Sport, with the most fans, with more fans even than many soccer teams, so I really consider it the most important in Italy. It is not possible for Virtus to be considered as much of a team as many others.
I don’t want to make any controversy, today is Banchi’s party. I consider Scariolo a great coach, I defended him to the last, even in society. But everything comes to an end, probably something had happened. Last year he met with the Toronto Raptors and Real Madrid while having a contract with Virtus, almost like we were a minor league team. I find this year’s team very strong, and Scariolo made it together with Paolo Ronci. All the players taken were by mutual agreement with the coach. Many players with extensive Euroleague experience play here. Let’s not forget that Scariolo last October wanted to put away both Teodosic and Belinelli, he thought they were old. I defended them. I renewed Marco, fortunately. Teodosic is right to come home to Belgrade, and we didn’t send him away, he didn’t accept our renewal proposal. Banchi did a very good world championship with the teamwork without stars, others complained that he lacked the scorer. It bothered me that for six months we have been treated like a ragtag society. We have the second largest budget in Italy after Milan. And this year’s budget was wanted by the Euroleague, not by us. I didn’t tell anyone that we were cutting the budget. And we have more millions that we spend on the women’s team. We got 5 new players, wanted by Scariolo, I am convinced that the team is very strong, and we hope to win something. When I took Virtus, thanks to the late Alberto Bucci, in the first year we won the A2 Italian championship and cup, then BCL, then Scudetto, then Supercup, Eurocup, then another Supercup. We’ll see in 2023 … but these are years when Virtus has only ever won. I have always said that I will not be there forever. And it seemed right to bring in another big entrepreneur in the shareholding structure, with the commitment that I will always be there to sponsor the company, and I will take back the shares if he wants to leave, we have this agreement. It is not a diminutio, on the contrary. It makes Virtus stronger. I have the most absolute conviction that Coach Banchi will be good at turning around the very strong team we have built, at least as strong as last year’s or more.”
On the new arena: “It’s moving forward. I will meet with the top management of the Fair to see the final design. Italian technical times are what they are. But we will get there. The choice to do a lease like they do in London, long-term, seemed like the right thing. If not, Virtus would go into a semi-public company as a private company, and not have all the rights to the property. We would always be in participation with the various events of the Fair and the city of Bologna. The partners would be whatever the Fair and the city of Bologna saw fit. But I have no problem with doing a 20-year contract or even a 30-year contract. It will always be the Virtus arena, and I don’t want to put any obligations on future Virtus partners, maybe an American will come along and want to do a mega stadium, and they will be so free to do that. Last time they told me six months, let’s hope it’s really six months. But we stay in the current arena until the new arena is ready.”