Rollie Massimono – Nova Coach Passes At 82

Credit – AP

By Ryan Touhey,

Rollie Massimino, the man who led the Villanova Wildcats to their first national championship in 1985, passed away on Wednesday in his Florida home after a battle with lung cancer. He was 82 years old.

Massimino’s legendary career spanned for more than five decades. He played college basketball at Vermont from 1953 to 1956. After he graduated, he would go on to coach high school basketball from 1959 to 1969. He coached at Cranford High and Hillside High in New Jersey, and Lexington High in Massachusetts.

From then on, he started a legendary run as a college basketball coach. He coached at Stony Brook University from 1969-71 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant coach. After the 1972-73 basketball season, Massimino became the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats. He would coach there for nearly two decades and would lead them to one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

The Wildcats entered the NCAA Tournament as the number eight seed. In the championship game in the final season before the shot-clock was instituted in college basketball, Massimino’s men upset a powerful Georgetown team that consisted of future NBA stars such as Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams

The Wildcats went on to win the title, 66-64, becoming the lowest seeded team to hoist the title over their heads, a record that they still hold today. Massimino’s final record at Nova was 355-241.

After his 19-year career as head coach in Villanova, Massimino moved onto the University of Las Vegas for the 1991-92 season. His career would continue for another 25 years. It would wrap up with the Keiser Seahawks in the 2016-17 season.

In his career, Massimino accumulated a total of 816 career wins. Ed Pinckney, who was on the Wildcats championship team, told ESPN that Massimino, “is like a father to me. We talked about life, not basketball. I still talked to him all the time. My youngest son, Austin, played for him at Northwood.”

ESPN also released a statement from Georgetown head coach. “The Georgetown family is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Rollie Massimino,” said Ewing. “Coach Massimino recruited me to Villanova in 1981 and we always bonded over our Boston ties. Even though his 1985 team beat us, I have always nothing but great respect and admiration for him. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Massimino is survived by his wife, five children and 17 grandchildren.

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