It is really hard to summarize the history of Pallacanestro Varese in a few lines: its glory and wins over time might well fill up several pages of this web site. But let us start from the beginnings, i.e. from 1945 when “Pallacanestro Varese” was set up as a society, even though the heart of basketball in Varese (a.k.a. the “Garden City”) started beating back in 1927, when a group of athletes from the local gym society (Società Ginnastica Varesina) formed a basketball team playing under the name of Varese. Ever since the beginning, the team colors have been white and red. The first successful results came in 1946 when the team entered the A Series. In 1949, it won the second place in the championship. The names of the first champions were Garbosi, Tracuzzi, Zorzi, Alesini, Gualco, Cerioni, Nesti, Forastieri. For a decade, Varese held top positions in the ranking and became one of the most important basketball teams on a national level. In 1954, Pallacanestro Varese entered a partnership with its first sponsor, i.e. the clothing manufacturer Storm, which gave its name to the team.
THE GREAT IGNIS
Only two years later, Varese partnered with the Ignis brand, which resulted into the pair that became a myth in Italy and worldwide and marked the beginning of a relationship that would then last as many as 18 years. The team colors changed into yellow and blue and under this combination Varese won seven championships (in 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1973), three Champions Cups (in 1970, 1972, and 1973), three Intercontinental Cups (in 1966, 1970, and 1973), and one FIBA Saporta Cup (in 1967). The coaches who made these unforgettable triumphs possible, from the first championship in 1961 to the last in 1974, were Enrico Garbosi, Vittorio Tracuzzi, Nico Messina, Aza Nikolic, and Sandro Gamba. Thanks to the patronage of Mr. Giovanni Borghi, owner of the Varese-based company and author of the sports miracle story of Ignis, Pallacanestro Varese scored victory after victory, achieving several, still unmatched records. In those years, the games played against Milano were among the major attractions in the Italian sports arena. Going back to the results obtained on the field, it is really hard to quote all the glorious protagonists of those victories. However, we want to mention at least the champions who made it possible for the team to win the first championship in 1961: Gatti, Gavagnin, Maggetti, Vianello, Zorzi, Nesti, Andreo, Borghi, and Padovan. Soon, Varese began to dominate also the European scenario, winning the first international cup in Madrid in 1966, and stood out as the first team in the history of basketball to be followed by a large group of organized fans. In those glorious years, great players contributed to creating the myth around the yellow-and-blue team, namely Flaborea, Bufalini, Bovone, Villetti, Melilla, Meneghin, Raga, Morse, Ossola, Rusconi, Yelverton, Bisson, Rizzi, Salvaneschi, Zanatta, etc.
THE POST-BORGHI ERA
When the Ignis cycle came to an end, other brands appeared on the jerseys of Pallacanestro Varese: Mobilgirgi from 1975 to 1978; Emerson from 1978 to 1980; Turisanda during the 1980/1981 season; Cagiva from 1981 to 1983; Star and Ciaocrem from 1983 to 1985, and finally Divarese from 1985 to 1989. In those 15 years, Varese won two Champions Cups, two championships, and one FIBA Suporta Cup, thus consolidating its leadership in the basketball arena. In the meantime, the exit of the Borghi family from the company was offset by the entry of Antonio Bulgheroni, who remained the owner of the team for some twenty years and managed to keep it at high levels. In 1992, the Varese-based club, for the first time in its glorious history, was downgraded to the A2 series. Having changed its name into Cagiva Groups, the white-and-red team managed to regain a position in the top series in the 1993/1994 championship, mainly thanks to the enrollment of Arijan Komazec, a young rising star of European basketball. In the year of its comeback to the A1 series, the team, for the second year in a row under the guidance of Dodo Rusconi, who sat on the bench of the team of his home city for another two seasons, scored an excellent fifth place in the ranking at the end of the championship. Those were the years of the Pozzecco – Meneghin duo and the years in which many young athletes from Varese were launched. As from the 1997/98 season, Varese replaced its main sponsor with a pool of sponsors and presented the team only with the name of the home city on their jerseys. As if this were not enough to make the season a “special” one, the team obtained the third place in the championship and qualified for the Euroleague. In 1999, the combination “Varese Roosters” supported by a pool of sponsors experienced a memorable season, which reached its climax with the “Star” team winning its tenth championship. In the 1999/2000 season, Varese won the Italian Super Cup and participated in the prestigious Mc Donald’s Championship, challenging the NBA champions of the San Antonio Spurs.
THE CASTIGLIONI ERA
After a disappointing year (2000/2001), Varese changed ownership and was acquired by entrepreneur Gianfranco Castiglioni, an enthusiastic basketball fan and patron. Thanks to the heavy investments made by the new company and to the support of METIS as the new main sponsor, Varese could, once again, aim at ambitious goals. Vescovi, Conti, De Pol, and Meneghin led the team to achieve good results in Italy (Playoffs and Final Eight in the Italian Cup) and in Europe (qualification to the quarter final of the Uleb Cup). In the 2004 season, Pallacanestro Varese changed its name into Casti Group and the white-and-red team qualified, for the second year in a row, to the Final Eight of the Italian Cup and to the second round of the Uleb Cup. In summer 2005, after the death of Cesare Fermi who, together with Gianfranco Castiglioni, had managed the company, Claudio Maria Castiglioni was appointed as operations manager of the team. The company celebrated its 60th anniversary: 60 years of glory that hopefully will continue for a long time to come. Olympic champion Ruben Magnano was confirmed as leader of the team who, during his time in Varese, led the team to qualify to two final eights of the Italian Cup and to the playoffs in the 2006/2007 season. In 2006, two historical members of the team from the time it was known as Stella came back as members of the company, i.e. Gek Galanda and Gianni Chiapparo as Managing Director of Pallacanestro Varese. Unfortunately, the 2007/2008 season was an unlucky one and the team was downgraded to the Legadue despite the fact that the coach was changed and new and very good players, such as Holland, were included in the team during the season. Summer 2008 featured a deep reorganization: Cecco Vescovi was appointed as General Manager with Max Ferraiuolo as his collaborator and liaison between the company and the players. The experienced and charismatic coach Stefano Pillastrini was called upon sitting on the bench of the white-and-red team and was assigned a multi-year plan that immediately brought Varese into the top league.
THE CONSORTIUM VARESE NEL CUORE
In summer 2010, the Consortium VARESE NEL CUORE was set up as an innovative project gathering entrepreneurs and local businesses and supporting Pallacanestro Varese. In September, the Consortium took over the Company by buying out its shares. The Castiglioni family stayed in the consortium holding a share of it, thus guaranteeing economic support for a three-year period, but they left the corporate management after 9 years. Michele Lo Nero, CEO of Fim Credit, took on the role of President of the Consortium, while Cecco Vescovi was appointed President of Pallacanestro Varese. Charly Recalcati was called back to sit on the bench of the white-and-red team and, after 11 years, came back as coach of the Varese team. It was the beginning of a new, fascinating adventure.
Winning the seventh place in the 2010/2011 championship allowed the team to access the quarter final playoffs in which, however, it was defeated in three games by Cantù, which then played in the finals. In the summer, most of the roster was confirmed which, in the 2011/2012 season, won the eighth place in the championship, thus qualifying again for the playoffs. In the first round, Varese played against the defending champions of Siena and was defeated with a score of 3-1. Once the Recalcati adventure was over, the management of Pallacanestro Varese decided to completely renew the team and to appoint Francesco Vitucci (former coach of Avellino) as coach. This was the beginning of the season of the “Unforgettables”: Green, Dunston, Ere, and Sakota were only some of the protagonists that made this a wonderful year for Varese. Undefeated during the pre-championship, the team won the regular season with 46 points, winning 23 games out of 30. And it also made it to the Italian Cup final, which it lost against Siena after eliminating the Milan and Rome teams. During the playoffs, Cimberio almost made it to the championship finals: it eliminated the Venice team in the quarter finals and it played again against Siena in the semifinals. Varese played incredibly well against the Tuscan team. The masterpiece point scored by Dusan Sakota 62 hundredths from the end of game 6 at PalaEstra extended the series of points scored during the week started at Masnago. However, here the white-and-red team had to bow to the Tuscan team since they could not rely on Dunston as he was injured. Despite this, the third final place in the championship allowed Varese to go back to the European cup competitions, eight years after their last performance. Under the guidance of the new Technical Manager Fabrizio Frates, Cimberio could relish again the pleasure of playing European Cup games.
The summer saw the arrival of the new Openjobmetis sponsor and the team was completely revolutionised in contrast with the previous season. The new coach is Gianmarco Pozzecco, the atomic fly of Italian basketball who, as a player in 1999, contributed greatly to winning the Star Scudetto with Carlo Recalcati on the benches. Called to Varese by Francesco Vescovi, Poz did not hesitate to leave Capo d’Orlando where he coached in LegaDue Gold achieving great things, focusing on the playoffs category. All this to begin a new chapter as the head coach at Varese. The season, however, was not as positive as had been expected. With some highs and lows, and some changes in the Openjobmetis roster, Cecco Vescovi resigned as general manager and soon after in February, Gianmarco Pozzecco resigned as coach. The bench was then entrusted to Attilio Caja who led the team to salvation, almost reaching the playoffs.
At the end of the season, which coincided with their 70th anniversary, the Red & Whites hire the emerging Paolo Moretti as coach and expert Bruno Arrigoni as general manager. After some initial difficulties, Openjobmetis gets back on track by finding the right frame of mind by ending the championship only one step away from the playoffs and, more importantly, reaching the final of the FIBA Europe Cup (losing to Frankfurt).
The 2016/2017 season opens with a change in top management – Marco Vittorelli replaces Stefano Coppa at the helm while Monica Salvestrin (vice president), Fabrizio Fiorini (CEO), Antonio Bulgheroni and Riccardo Polinelli (counsellors) constitute the new Board of Directors at the Red & White club. The role of general manager, however, is entrusted to Claudio Coldebella.