Rollie Massimino celebrates Villanova’s win over North Carolina in the 1985 NCAA Southeast Regional final. Photo by AP.
Update: Rollie Massimino, the fiery New Jersey-born basketball coach famous for guiding tiny Villanova University to its unlikely first National Championship title in 1985, died at age 82 shortly after entering hospice care not far from his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to ESPN.
News of Massimino’s declining health broke yesterday afternoon following a tweet by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari:
Massimino coached the Wildcats from 1973 until 1992, when he left the Main Line with a bitter taste in his mouth as he took over UNLV’s troubled program. The two sides buried the hatchet thanks in part to current Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who brought Massimino to Houston to witness ‘Nova’s second National Championship win in 2016.
“The ‘Nova Nation has lost a legend and great leader,” Wright said in a statement. “Coach’s love of family, community, and teamwork were evident in every game his teams ever played. All of us, as coaches and players, idolized Coach Mass. He inspired and impacted all of our lives. He never stopped being a cherished mentor and friend.”
Save for a brief three-year stint out of basketball in the early- to mid-2000s, Rollie continued coaching well into his senior years. Massimino recorded his 800th win last year while pacing the sidelines for Keiser University, a junior college located in West Palm where he coached for the past 11 seasons. In addition to Coach Mass’s 8-seed Wildcats’ improbable run in ’85, Villanova advanced to the NCAA Tournament four other times under his direction.
Massimino was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. Check out this fun Q&A that Philly Mag did with Rollie a few years back here.
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