clear
Wednesday September 20th, 2017 9:37PM

Rollie Massimino, who led Villanova to '85 NCAA title, dies

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — 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.

"When you're a young coach and you grow up in Philly, Rollie Massimino is a legend to you," Wright 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.

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.

"Chuck is always with me," Massimino said earlier this year.

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.

The Wildcats downed Memphis State in the national semifinals. That left a Villanova vs. Georgetown showdown, an all-Big East final. The Hoyas won both regular-season matchups between the rivals, but Villanova shot a staggering 79 percent in the title game and pulled off a 66-64 upset when it mattered most.

"Even though his 1985 team beat us, I have always had nothing but great respect and admiration for him," said Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing, who starred on the Hoyas' 1985 team.

Villanova missed six shots from the field in the game, going 22 for 28.

"This is the greatest thing to ever happen to me," Massimino said that night.

Massimino spent two seasons at UNLV, seven more at Cleveland State and the last 11 at Keiser (which was called Northwood when he started). Keiser went to the NAIA national tournament nine times in his 11 seasons.

He was coaching until the very end, stomping on the sideline when angry with referees, doing the same pregame rituals this season as he did 30 years ago at Villanova. A leather desk chair was wheeled to the sideline for each practice for him to use if he needed a rest; most days, that chair went completely unoccupied.

"Some days, we do take him for granted," Keiser guard Andrija Sarenac said earlier this year. "But then you see him on TV so much, you see all these videos made about him, the movies about Villanova and everything, and it just hits you. You realize that he's a legend. I mean, your coach is a walking legend. With the energy and everything he comes in with, it's inspiring."

It only seemed like Massimino knew everyone. He dined with Frank Sinatra, got to be a Dodgers batboy under Tommy Lasorda and loved Perry Como. The '85 Villanova team would gather annually with Massimino, grown men sleeping on air mattresses scattered all over the coach's home while dining on his favorites — tons of pasta, tons of eggplant, all the while toasting the past and the future.

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."

___

More AP college basketball news: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Mississippi homes damaged by Harvey tornado
Tropical Storm Harvey has spawned at least one tornado in Mississippi and created bands of strong winds that damaged homes and toppled some trees
4:46PM ( 15 minutes ago )
The Latest: Sharapova back on the court at US Open
Maria Sharapova is back on the same court where she pulled off one of the biggest wins of the tournament two days earlier
4:44PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Last move: Browns trade disappointing OL Erving to Chiefs
The Browns have traded disappointing offensive lineman Cam Erving to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round pick next year
4:42PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Amid floods, Astros to return home Saturday to face Mets
The Houston Astros will return home Saturday to face the New York Mets
4:13PM ( 48 minutes ago )
Texans ready to head home to Houston after game canceled
The NFL preseason game between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night has been canceled
4:07PM ( 54 minutes ago )
NFL 2017: Titans, Mariota eager to push aside Texans, Colts
The Tennessee Titans might be the AFC South's most optimistic team thanks to quarterback Marcus Mariota
4:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
10 Things to Know for Today
Among 10 Things to Know: Forecast brings hope as new shelters open, death toll rises in Houston; Harvey comes ashore again, now in Louisiana; Trump to promote 'vision' for job creation via tax overhaul in Missouri
8:11AM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: 2nd major shelter for Harvey evacuees opens
A second major shelter has opened in Houston following Harvey's landfall and is welcoming the first of up to 10,000 evacuees.
1:54AM ( 15 hours ago )
The Latest: Posts, tweets spur mixed news of Harvey missing
Photos with pleas for help in finding the missing from Tropical Storm Harvey are being posted and retweeted by the thousands as desperate family members seek loved ones who they fear might be dead, but may only have a dead phone.
1:40AM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
College football picks: 'Bama-FSU can make long-term impact
The result of the Alabama-Florida State could be a topic of conversation all season, especially among the College Football Playoff selection committee
1:49PM ( 3 hours ago )
NCAA head in Tokyo to offer advice on college sports body
NCAA president Mark Emmert has been offering Japanese sports industry leaders advice on forming their own collegiate athletics association
9:39AM ( 7 hours ago )
Harvey keeping Rice and Houston football teams off campus
The Rice football team still feels a long, long way from home even back in Texas after playing their season opener in Australia
9:37AM ( 7 hours ago )
College Sports
Former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote dies at 90
Jud Heathcote, who led Michigan State and Magic Johnson to the 1979 NCAA championship, has died at 90
2:45AM ( 1 day ago )
US college teams in Barcelona during van attack, players OK
US college men's basketball teams in Barcelona during van attack, players OK
6:18PM ( 1 week ago )
After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case
North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal
3:20PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
The Latest: Mississippi homes damaged by Harvey tornado
Tropical Storm Harvey has spawned at least one tornado in Mississippi and created bands of strong winds that damaged homes and toppled some trees
4:46PM ( 15 minutes ago )
The Latest: Sharapova back on the court at US Open
Maria Sharapova is back on the same court where she pulled off one of the biggest wins of the tournament two days earlier
4:44PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Last move: Browns trade disappointing OL Erving to Chiefs
The Browns have traded disappointing offensive lineman Cam Erving to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round pick next year
4:42PM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: EPA waives some clean-air rules due to Harvey
Authorities in Houston have been stressing that people will not be questioned about their immigration status at Harvey flood shelters
4:34PM ( 28 minutes ago )
The Latest: Interior drops probe into secretary, senators
The Interior Department inspector general's office has dropped an investigation into whether the Trump administration pressured Alaska GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan over their health care votes
4:28PM ( 33 minutes ago )