Ex- Nova coach Massimino dead at 82,
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Rollie Massimino, who led Villanova’s storied run to the 1985 NCAA championship and won more than 800 games in his coaching career, died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 82.
Mr. Massimino’s death was announced by Keiser University, where he was still the men’s basketball coach. He spent the final days of his life in hospice care.
Best known for that national title at Villanova, Mr. Massimino also coached at Stony Brook, UNLV and Cleveland State. He spent the last 11 years of his life at Keiser, where he started the program and turned it into an NAIA power.
“As our campus community deeply mourns the loss of Coach Massimino, we extend our warmest thoughts and condolences to his wife, Mary Jane, and the entire Massimino family,” Keiser Chancellor Arthur Keiser said. “We are so truly honored to have shared this time with him and take some degree of comfort in knowing the positive impact he has had on college students for the last four decades remains immeasurable.”
Mr. Massimino faced numerous health issues in recent years yet never stopped coaching. And even though he left Villanova 25 years ago, he was still considered family by the Wildcats and coach Jay Wright.
“If not for Rollie Massimino, I’m not even a part of this,” Wright once said.
Roland Vincent Massimino was born Nov. 13, 1934, in New Jersey, played his college basketball at Vermont and got his master’s degree from Rutgers. His first head coaching job was at his alma mater, Hillside High School, in 1962. His college coaching career started at Stony Brook in 1969, and after two seasons, he became an assistant at Penn — under Chuck Daly.
Mr. Massimino and Daly would remain close until Daly’s death in 2009. Like Daly, Mr. Massimino was always dapper on the sidelines. So when Daly died, Mr. Massimino took Daly’s collection of sharp dress shoes and wore a pair in every game he coached for the remainder of his life.
“Chuck is always with me,” Mr. Massimino said this year.
After one season at Penn, Mr. Massimino took over at Villanova. He spent 19 seasons there, best remembered by the 1985 NCAA title run that was anything but easy — for many reasons.
Villanova needed a last- second stop just to escape over Dayton ( a game played at Dayton, no less) in the first round. The Wildcats rallied from a deficit to beat North Carolina for a trip to the Final Four, then downed Memphis State in the national semifinals. That left a Villanova vs. Georgetown showdown. Villanova shot a staggering 79 percent in the title game, going 22 for 28, and pulled off a 66- 64 upset.
“This is the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” Massimino said that night.
He was a finalist for enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame this year. Massimino is survived by his wife, five children and 17 grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.
“People say I’ve given a lot to basketball,” Massimino told AP earlier this year. “Let me tell you something: Basketball has given a whole lot more to me.”
Villanova coach Rollie Massimino takes a victory ride on his players’ shoulders after the Wildcats upset North Carolina in the NCAA Southeast Regional in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 24, 1985.