At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Dino Meneghin – basketball player

Italy’s biggest star won 32 trophies and Olympic medal


Dino Meneghin in 1980, the year his Olympic silver medal followed a domestic treble
Dino Meneghin in 1980, the year his Olympic
silver medal followed a domestic treble
Dino Meneghin, universally recognised as the greatest Italian player in basketball history, was born on this day in 1950 in Alano di Piave, a village in the Veneto.

The first Italian and only the second European player to be drafted by a National Basketball Association team when he was picked by the Atlanta Hawks in 1970, Meneghin enjoyed a professional career spanning 28 years.

He did not retire until he was 44 years old and had played in a professional match against his own son, Andrea, having won 32 trophies including 12 Italian national championships and seven EuroLeague titles.

Meneghin also participated in four OIympic basketball tournaments, winning a silver medal in the 1980 Games in Moscow. His international career amounted to 271 appearances for Italy, in which he scored 2,847 points.

Brought up in Varese in Lombardy, Meneghin was always exceptionally tall, growing to a height of 6ft 9ins (2.06m), and was earmarked for an athletic career.  He and his brother Renzo would train together, Renzo as a middle-distance runner, Dino as a shot-putter and discus thrower.

It just happened that in 1963 his school entered a basketball tournament and his PE teacher, looking at who might be a candidate for the school team, naturally wanted to see whether Dino had the skills to go with his height.

Meneghin father and son: on court in  1990 with son Andrea (left)
Meneghin father and son: on court in
1990 with son Andrea (left)
He asked Dino to perform a series of runs and movements and was sufficiently encouraged to ask him to return the following day with some basketball shoes.  Many years later, in his autobiography, Meneghin revealed that when he asked his mother if he could have some basketball shoes she confessed she had not even heard of basketball, let alone knew where to buy the requisite footwear.

Nonetheless, he played in the tournament, impressing his teacher so much he was recommended for a trial with Pallacanestro Varese, better known as Ignis Varese after the electrical appliance firm that were its sponsors, and one of the leading clubs in the Italian Basketball League.

Three years later, at the age of 16 years and 11 months, he made his professional debut, beginning what would be a career of extraordinary success.

Playing in the key position of center, which normally goes to the tallest player on the team, Meneghin helped Varese win seven Italian championships between 1969 and 1977, plus four Italian Cups, five European (EuroLeague) Cups, two Cup-Winners’ Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

After Varese had won the treble of domestic league and cup and the European crown in 1970, Meneghin was entered for the NBA draft, the first Italian to be given that honour.  In the event, though selected by Atlanta, he did not take up the chance to play as it would have meant turning his back on his international career.

Had that happened his participation in the Munich, Atlanta, Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics would not have taken place, nor would he have supplemented his silver medal in Moscow, in which Italy were beaten by Yugoslavia in the final in the absence of the USA, with bronze medals at the European championships in 1971 and 1975 and gold at the 1983 finals in France.

Meneghin in retirement as president of the Italian Basketball Federation
Meneghin in retirement as president of
the Italian Basketball Federation
Meneghin spent 14 years with Varese before joining Olimpia Milano in 1980 and continuing his success, winning five more Italian league titles, two Italian Cups, two EuroLeague titles and another Intercontinental Cup.

After 10 years in Milan, he moved again in 1990 to Stefanel Trieste, where in November 1990 he enjoyed the emotional experience of playing against his son, Andrea, who had started out in the same way as his father, making his debut for Varese at the age of 16.

Andrea was to go on to win a first Italian title with Varese in 1999, in the same year winning a European championship gold medal for Italy in a team of which his father was sitting on the bench as manager.

Since retiring, Dino has been inducted to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame – only the second Italian to be granted the accolade, the most prestigious in the sport, after Cesare Rubini, the former Milano player and coach.

He has also served as president of the Italian Basketball Federation, made an honorary citizen of Varese and handed the keys to Alano di Piave.

In 2015, he was named on a list of 100 Italian sportsmen and women to be commemorated in a new Walk of Fame of Italian Sport, connecting the Avenue of the Olympics with the Olympic Stadium at the Foro Italico in Rome.

Nowadays, Meneghin lives in Alice Bel Colle, a pretty village in rolling countryside in the province of Alessandria in Piedmont, about 100km (62 miles) southeast of Turin and 80km (50 miles) northwest of the Ligurian capital of Genoa.

Varese's town hall is the Palazzo Estense, set in several acres of beautiful gardens
Varese's town hall is the Palazzo Estense, set in several
acres of beautiful gardens
Travel tip:

The city of Varese, in an area in the foothills of the Alps that owes its terrain to the activities of ancient glaciers that created 10 lakes in the immediate vicinity, including Lago di Varese, which this elegant provincial capital overlooks.  Most visitors to the city arrive there because of the Sacro Monte di Varese (the Sacred Hill of Varese), which features a picturesque walk passing 14 monuments and chapels, eventually reaching the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte.  But the town itself and the handsome villas and palaces in the centre and the surrounding countryside are interesting in their own right, reflecting the prosperity of the area. The grand Palazzo Estense is one, now the city's Municipio - the town hall.

The village of Alano di Piave in Veneto, viewed from the foothills of Monte Grappa
The village of Alano di Piave in Veneto, viewed from
the foothills of Monte Grappa
Travel tip:

Meneghin’s home village of Alano di Piave is situated in a beautiful valley in the northern area of Veneto, at the foot of Monte Grappa, in an area popular with climbers and walkers. Some 35km (22 miles) northeast of Bassano del Grappa and a similar distance southwest of Belluno, overlooking the fast-flowing Piave river, it is close to Valdobbiadene, the wine-growing area in the province of Treviso most famous for producing the finest Prosecco.


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