The architect of the team that made history as the first Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion from Turkey, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul general manager Maurizio Gherardini, has been voted as the Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year for the 2016-17 season. As every year, Gherardini's fellow Turkish Airlines EuroLeague executives voted for the award, which honors the person and club whose executive decisions have best exemplified the EuroLeague's commitment to excellence during the previous season.
In the short span of three years since he joined the club, Gherardini spearheaded and completed Fenerbahce's transformation from ambitious hopeful to EuroLeague powerhouse. During his tenure, Fenerbahce has been able to recruit some of the best players in Europe to form a seamless unit that has gotten better with each season. That roster planning has gone a long way to Fenerbahce making three historic EuroLeague Final Four appearances in a row. Fenerbahce reached its first Final Four ever in 2015, became the first Turkish finalist in 2016 and became Turkey's first continental champion in any team sport this spring, with that ultimate crowning glory achieved at the Final Four in Istanbul.
Gherardini began his career with his hometown club in Forli, Italy, where he played and served as both assistant coach and youth teams director before becoming general manager while still in his 20s. Gherardini was hired by Benetton Treviso in 1992 and over the next 14 years turned the club into a European force that collected four Italian League championships, seven Italian Cups and two Saporta Cups, the last of those with current Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic on the bench. In addition, Gherardini's Benetton teams reached the EuroLeague Final Four on four occasions, including the 1993 and 2003 championship games, but he was not able to lift the trophy until now. Gherardini became the first European to hold a prominent role in an NBA front office when Toronto made him vice president and assistant general manager in 2006. Following seven seasons there, Gherardini spent one season with Oklahoma City before joining Fenerbahce in 2014.
Over his career, Gherardini's expertise as a master scout and talent evaluator has enabled him to piece together winning squads at every stop in his career. He constructed Fenerbahce's championship roster, with only two players predating his arrival to Istanbul.
The Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year award is one of the competition's two annual post-season honors, along with the Alexander Gomelsky Coach of the Year Trophy. The award recognizes those whose efforts build the clubs of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague into success stories in basketball results, marketing achievements and community involvement. Mr. Porelli, who served as president of Virtus Bologna for more than two decades, was among the founders of ULEB and later its president. He passed away in 2009.
Gherardini becomes the second recipient of the Executive of the Year award from a Turkish club; Tuncay Özilhan of Anadolu Efes Istanbul was the 2013 winner. He was followed by Livio Proli of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, in 2014; Marco Baldi of ALBA Berlin in 2015; and Jose Antonio Querejeta of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in 2016.