< Leg­endary Villanova

Led Wild­cats to the NCAA ti­tle in 1985

The Day - - SPORTS - By TIM REYNOLDS AP Bas­ket­ball Writer

men’s bas­ket­ball coach Rol­lie Mas­simino dies Wed­nes­day at the age of 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.

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, 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.

"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," Keiser Chan­cel­lor Arthur Keiser said.

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. "If not for the Big East, Rol­lie Mas­simino is not Rol­lie Mas­simino. I know it. He knows it. And if not for the Big East, no one knows about Villanova."

Wright was given a cham­pi­onship ring from 1985, and Mas­simino was given a cham­pi­onship ring from 2016. Wright wasn't work­ing at Villanova dur­ing the first ti­tle sea­son; Mas­simino wasn't of­fi­cially there for the sec­ond one. But Wright worked Mas­simino's camps in the mid-1980s be­fore com­ing to Villanova, so that made him part of the fam­ily.

Mas­simino went out of his way to take care of those he con­sid­ered fam­ily. So Wright got that 1985 ring. And the only mo­ment when Wright teared up at Villanova's 2016 ring cer­e­mony was when he handed Mas­simino his piece of cham­pi­onship jew­elry.

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.

Mas­simino and Daly would re­main close un­til Daly's death in 2009. Like Daly, Mas­simino was al­ways dap­per on the side­lines. So when Daly died, Mas­simino took Daly's col­lec­tion of sharp dress shoes and wore a pair in ev­ery game he coached for the re­main­der of his life.

Af­ter one sea­son at Penn, 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, went score­less for the first eight min­utes of the sec­ond half and some­how still beat top-seeded Michi­gan in the sec­ond round, and top­pled Mary­land in the re­gional semi­fi­nal — win­ning those three games by a com­bined nine points. And to get to the Fi­nal Four, Villanova erased a half­time deficit against North Carolina.

That game with the Tar Heels was the one where Mas­simino gave what those linked to that '85 team still call "the pasta speech" at half­time.

"He looked at all of us and threw his coat down," Chuck Ever­son, who played on that team, said Wed­nes­day. "He said, 'If I knew it was go­ing to come down to this, I'd rather have a bowl of pasta with clam sauce and a lot of cheese on it.' Ev­ery­body was look­ing at him like, 'What the heck does this have to do about play­ing?' What he was say­ing was just go out and have some fun. Do some­thing you like. Play. Ev­ery­body's eyes ex­ploded."

Villanova dom­i­nated that sec­ond half. Pasta was had after­ward.


For­mer St. Bernard stand­out Harold Press­ley, left, and his team­mates carry Villanova coach Rol­lie Mas­simino off the court on March 24, 1985. Mas­simino died Wed­nes­day af­ter a long bat­tle with can­cer.

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