MASSIMINO LOSES BATTLE WITH CANCER AT 82
Rollie Massimino, who was the coach for one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history, died Wednesday, according to a release from Keiser University. He had been battling cancer. He was 82. For the last 11 years, Massimino has been the coach for Keiser, an NAIA school in West Palm Beach, Fla. But he was most famous for coaching Villanova, which entered the 1985 tournament seeded eighth, to the NCAA championship against Georgetown, the top-ranked team in the country. Until recent years, Massimino was in relatively good health. He had surgery to remove a tumor in his lung in 2011, suffered a collapsed lung and had brain surgery in 2016. But he was still coaching. At Keiser, he led the program — one he started in 2006 — to eight NAIA tournaments with a national runner-up and a semifinal as his two best finishes. “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 University Chancellor Ar
thur Keiser said in a statement. “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.” The 1985 Villanova championship, though, might be his greatest accomplishment. Coming into the tournament, the Wildcats had lost seven of their previous 13 games and lost to St. John’s by 15 points in the second round of the Big East tournament. They squeaked by the first two rounds, beating Dayton by two and Michigan by four. They then beat Maryland, North Carolina and Memphis State, all seeded higher, before defeating All-American center Patrick
Ewing and tournament favorite Georgetown in the final. Massimino left Villanova in 1992, spent two years at UNLV and seven more at Cleveland State before retiring to play golf in South Florida. It was there that an old friend, Rick Smoliak, asked for advice from Massimino on starting a basketball program at Northwood College (which became Keiser). Instead, when the program started in 2006, Massimino became the coach. Before going to Villanova in 1973, he spent two seasons at Stony Brook and one season as an assistant coach to Chuck Daly at Penn. He had an overall coaching record of 816-462 in 41 seasons.