Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will miss Wednesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers after undergoing what the team is calling a minor medical procedure.
Popovich also is expected to miss Friday’s home game against Sacramento. Assistant Ettore Messina will run the team in Popovich’s absence.
"It’s not what you want, but the good thing is that obviously it’s nothing big or you would not see me here so relaxed," Messina said.
The 65-year-old Popovich is in his 18th season as head coach of the Spurs.
Messina becomes the first European-born coach to run an NBA team in the regular season. Referred by many as the "Coach Pop of Europe," Messina is in his first season with the Spurs after a successful international career.
"Obviously, he’s an international basketball legend," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "I don’t really know that much more about him other than he’s highly, highly respected."
Messina is a two-time Euroleague coach of the year and also has coached in Russia, Italy and Spain. He served as a coaching consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12.
"Everybody here tells me from Day One to feel very comfortable," Messina said of San Antonio.
In recent seasons, his name was raised as a candidate to become the first European coach to become a head coach in the NBA.
David Blatt beat him to it, coming over from Israel this year to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Blatt is American born.
Messina coached the Spurs in a 121-90 preseason loss to Phoenix on Oct. 16 when Popovich opted to stay at home.
"I am terribly scared," Messina said of his regular-season debut. "I am average scared. Not scared at all. You pick up the (one you want).
"I’m trying to think what Pop would have said to you. I haven’t thought about (being the first European-born coach in the NBA), honestly. You try to stay focused on what you have to do, that’s it. There is already enough to think about. The rest will stay for the record, for the good memory to tell my grandkids when I will be home in front of the fireplace, I will tell the story."
Vogel jokingly said Messina should toss aside all of the coaching strategies Popovich has used in leading the Spurs to five NBA championships.
"That’s what I would do," he said. "Pop’s stuff is terrible, it doesn’t really work. So, honestly, I would go away from that, especially for tonight’s game."