Rollie Massimino, the coaching icon who led Villanova for 19 seasons and guided the Wildcats to the 1985 NCAA national championship, passed away quietly surrounded by family at his Florida home on Wednesday at the age of 82.
“The Nova Nation has lost a legend and great leader,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “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.
“All of us in the Villanova Basketball family extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Mass, his wife of 59 years, his five children – Tom, Lee Ann, Michele, R.C. and Andrew – and his 17 grandchildren.”
From 1973 to 1992, Massimino guided the Wildcats to 357 victories, including 20 in the NCAA Tournament (with only 10 losses). On April 1, 1985, in a game that would come to be defined as one of the most monumental upsets in NCAA history, the Wildcats connected on .786 of their field goal attempts to stun No. 1 ranked Georgetown 66-64, capping an improbable six-game march to the title as a No. 8 seed.
In addition to the magical 1985 run, the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1988. Villanova posted 10 seasons of 20 victories or more in Massimino’s tenure and he was the 1982 BIG EAST Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
During his near two decade stint on the Main Line, Massimino built a program founded on family. Each of the players recruited to Villanova by Massimino who spent four years in the program earned his degree. Through the years he remained in close contact with his former Wildcat players, many of whom credit him with helping mold them into the people they are today.
When Massimino returned to coaching after a three year retirement in 2006 at Northwood – later rebranded as Keiser – Villanova served as his first regular season opponent. The Wildcats downed the Seahawks, 97-60, in West Palm Beach, with many of his former Villanova players in attendance. Massimino would go on to lead the Seahawks to 312 victories, including the 2012 NAIA Division II title game. He won his 800th career game last December as Keiser defeated Trinity Baptist 77-47.
Massimino earned 816 victories over the course of his career as a collegiate head coach. A 1956 graduate of the University of Vermont, he also served as the head coach at Stony Brook University (1969-71), UNLV (1992-94) and Cleveland State University (1996-2003).
Funeral arrangements are pending.