Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino dies at 82

Villanova coach Rollie Massimino takes a victory ride on his players shoulders March 24, 1985. (AP Photo)
AP Photo

The basketball world bid farewell to another coaching great Wednesday, as it was announced that former Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino had passed away at the age of 82. Massimino, who for the last 11 years served as the head coach at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Fla., led Villanova on one of the most surprising runs in NCAA tournament history in 1985.

News of Massimino’s passing was announced by Keiser University chancellor Dr. Arthur Keiser.

Seeded eighth in the Southeast Region, Villanova would go on to win the program’s first national championship. One of three teams from the Big East to reach the Final Four, Villanova upset Georgetown 66-64 in the national title game. Massimino’s Wildcats shot 78.6 percent from the field that night, leading many to refer to it as the “perfect game.”

Massimino’s head coaching career would begin at Hillside High School in New Jersey in 1962, and his move to the collegiate ranks would come seven years later as he accepted the head coaching job at Stony Brook. Massimino would leave Stony Brook after two seasons to join Chuck Daly’s staff at Penn, where he spent one year before being hired by fellow Big 5 school Villanova in 1973.

Massimino spent 19 seasons at Villanova, where he took the program from independence to the Eastern 8 and into the Big East in 1981. Massimino was one of the key figures in the Big East, which was founded two years before his Wildcats joined the league. Along with coaching icons such as Jim Boeheim and Lou Carnesecca, Massimino helped turn the upstart conference into one of the nation’s best in short order.

From Villanova, Massimino would go on to hold Division I head coach jobs at UNLV and Cleveland State before taking over at Northwood (now named Keiser) University in 2006. For his career Massimino won 816 games. At Villanova he led the Wildcats to 11 NCAA tournament appearances in his 19 seasons at the helm.

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