Gianmarco Pozzecco is a man of many words: passionate, energetic, occasionally eccentric, entertaining, and consistently captivating. Yet, amid these colorful descriptors, what has Italy dreaming of their first-ever podium finish at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 is his remarkable coaching prowess.
Certainly, the Pozzecco of the first set of words is unforgettable.
One can’t overlook the fiery moments, like Pozzecco’s animated protests resulting in a second technical foul and ejection during a clash against the Dominican Republic, or his energetic sideline gestures causing shirttails to escape from his pants.
Then there’s the 50-year-old coach, enthusiastically pumping his fists and raising his arms in celebration after pivotal plays by his team. Pozzecco even made headlines when he expressed his desire to meet Philippines boxing legend Manny Pacquiao during a press conference. He candidly revealed that he was so distraught after his team’s loss to the Dominicans that he contemplated leaping from his 37th-floor hotel room.
However, amidst the theatrics, one message shines through—the profound love Pozzecco has for his players. And they, in turn, feed off that passion.
“We know him. He gives us even more energy, more excitement, more positivity. It’s just the way he is, he’s not acting crazy. He’s really like that. We know him. The world knows him a little now too. We are just taking his positivity, and the energy is good vibes for us,” expressed Italy’s NBA forward Simone Fontecchio.
Marco Spissu, the Italian playmaker with years of experience under Pozzecco at the club level, echoes this sentiment: “It’s good to get his trust on the court. It’s so important for a player to play with confidence on the court. We are really happy to play for Italy, especially for him.”
Retiring Italian veteran Luigi Datome adds, “For sure he gives us not only energy but confidence and trust. We are a team with some limits but we try to overcome those limits with enthusiasm and playing free and with confidence and playing together.”
Beyond the entertaining facade lies an exceptional coach.
Pozzecco, a former point guard with nearly two decades of professional playing experience, boasts technical skills and sharpshooting. His playing career included two Italian league championships, a stint in Spain, and two seasons in Russia. He also contributed to Italy’s silver medal at the 2004 Olympics during his seven years representing the Italian national team.
His coaching journey began at the age of 40 in 2012, culminating in guiding Dinamo Sassari to victory in the FIBA Europe Cup in 2019. In June 2022, Pozzecco took over as the head coach of the Italian national team, promptly leading them to a stunning victory over tournament favorites Serbia in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Round of 16.
Pozzecco, despite his ejection from the pivotal game against France in the Quarter-Finals, witnessed Italy’s remarkable performance from the catacombs of the Berlin Arena.
This summer, Pozzecco’s winning strategies have shone through as Italy secured 11 out of 12 victories, going undefeated in nine exhibition games leading up to the World Cup, including wins over Angola and the Philippines, and a single loss to the Dominican Republic in the First Round.
His players acknowledge Pozzecco’s excellence in game planning and team management.
“He’s a good coach. He was an amazing player. He knows the game. And having been a player, he knows players too. That’s the most beautiful thing about him – that he gives us the little things, the little details that you recognize because you are a player like him,” affirms Fontecchio.
“People don’t understand, but this shows in practice. We know how he coaches. From the outside, it looks crazy, but he is so prepared,” adds Spissu.
As the veteran Luigi Datome notes, Pozzecco’s coaching brilliance often goes unnoticed due to his passionate reactions on the sidelines. But those who have seen him up close recognize his high-level coaching.
With Italy’s impressive World Cup performance, one more word deserves to be added to Gianmarco Pozzecco’s description: a winner.