Few cities anywhere in the world can match the passion or excitement for basketball that Bologna, Italy - otherwise known as Basket City - has shown historically, which makes Fortitudo's presence in the 2008-09 Eurocup nothing but a boost for a new competition.
Fortitudo, under the direction of new head coach Dragan Sakota, also hopes that this new competition can help revive the club after a few tough seasons. Fortitudo's basketball division, 72 years old, took a long road to prominence, only reaching the Italian first division in 1966. The 1976-77 season provided the next milestone as Fortitudo reached the Korac Cup finals. After some highs and lows, the team returned to Italy's first division for good in 1992. Fortitudo's fortunes began to soar soon, reaching the first of three consecutive Italian League finals in 1996. The club finally unlocked its trophy case when it captured the 1998 Italian Cup, led by Carlton Myers and Gregor Fucka. Fortitudo also came within one step of the Euroleague Final Four in consecutive seasons. After three missed opportunities, Fortitudo added the Italian League crown to its collection in 1999-2000. The next highlight came in 2004, when Fortitudo reached the Euroleague title game, which despite a loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv, capped a fantastic Euroleague season that included road wins in Tel Aviv and Moscow. The next season, with a new generation of local talents led by Stefano Mancinelli and Marco Belinelli taking center stage, Fortitudo won its second Italian League title by downing Armani Jeans Milano 3-1 in the finals – its ninth title series in 10 years. In the Euroleague, winning seasons in 2005 and 2006 were not enough to propel the club to the playoffs and 2007 saw the club slip and miss even the Top 16. Last season, the club began a rebuilding project and made its first appearance in the ULEB Cup, where it narrowly missed advancing to the elimination rounds. This year, Sakota will run out a new-look squad with only one player, Mancinelli, still with the club from its last Euroleague run. Joe Forte, who led the team in scoring last season, anchors a backcourt that features playmaker Marcelo Huertas, rookie Jamont Gordon and veterans Davide Lamma and Matteo Malaventura. Mancinelli and Qyntel Woods compliment one another at the forward spots and inside, the taller Earl Barron and the beefy Uros Slokar also have the potential to fit well together, while rookie Kieron Achara and veteran Alessandro Cittadini ensure that there will always be plenty of energy, rebounding and defensive help off the bench. Sakota has the task of bringing this talented group together. Working in his favor is the experience and desire to win among the veterans, which should be plenty to steer the young guys in the right direction. And if the chemistry works out, the rest of the Eurocup had better watch out.