Rollie Massimino Inducted into Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame


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Rollie Massimino led Villanova to its first national championship in 1985.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Former Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino was posthumously inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday evening at the Live! Hotel and Casino in South Philadelphia. Massimino was named a part of the 19th inductee class, which also included former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, former Eagles kicker David Akers and former Flyers head coach and general manager Keith Allen.

The Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame includes 289 individuals, 11 teams, two organizations, three venues and two events. There are inductees from 19 different sports, from the professional to the collegiate and scholastic levels. 

Massimino, who passed away in 2017 after a battle with brain cancer, was honored with a speech from his son, Tom Massimino. Tom served as an assistant coach at Villanova while Rollie was at the helm.

“My dad’s first exposure to Philadelphia basketball was on a December night, as an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania,” Tom said in his speech. “He came from being the head coach of Stony Brook, and had just taken a two thousand dollar pay cut to be an assistant at Penn. And as you know, everyone that’s been to the Palestra, when it’s sold out the corners are full. So my dad and Chuck Daly walked out of the locker room, [Daly] looks at my dad and says, ‘Isn’t this worth a couple thousand dollars?’”

Massimino started his coaching career at Stony Brook in 1969, coaching there until 1971, and then moved to be an assistant at Penn from 1972-1973. Villanova hired Massimino in March of 1973.

Massimino was the head coach of Villanova from 1973-1992 and amassed a record of 355-241 over his 19 years at the helm of the Wildcats. Most notably, Massimino coached the Wildcats to the 1985 NCAA national championship, defeating the one-seed Georgetown Hoyas in the national championship, 66-64, in what has been nicknamed “the perfect game.” Massimino’s Wildcats were five-time Big East champs and appeared in the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen five times. 

Current Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune and former Villanova head coach Jay Wright were both in attendance for the induction.

“Coach Mass was such a big part of Philadelphia basketball for such a long time,” Wright said. “It means a lot to his family, it means a lot to all of us at Villanova for him to be recognized in the great Philadelphia sports tradition, because he was a huge part of it. And he loved it. And we all really appreciate the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame for it.”

Neptune shared the same sentiment about Massimino’s induction.

“Coach Massimino is pretty much the Godfather of Villanova basketball,” Neptune said. “My interactions with him were always amazing. Most of my interactions with him were through Coach Wright. Coach Wright always talked so highly of him. We’re just so proud that he gave us such a great start and set such a great example for us.” 

Massimino’s induction included a video highlighting some of his career accomplishments, and prominently featured Massimino’s 1985 NCAA Championship game post-game comments. 

“Nobody thought we could do it,” he said, “but I did!” 

This heat-of-the-moment exclamation became emblematic of Massimino’s ‘85 Wildcats team, as they remain the only eight-seed and lowest seeded team to win the national championship in the history of the tournament. North Carolina, an eight-seed in the 2022 rendition of the tournament, made it to the final last year, but failed to upset one-seed Kansas. 

Massimino is thought by many to have laid the foundation for the Wildcats’ continued success in men’s basketball, as Wright served as an assistant coach on Massimino’s staff at Villanova from 1987-1992. Wright also served as an assistant for two years on Massimino’s staff at UNLV from 1992-1994. Wright eventually came back to Villanova after a brief stint as the head coach of Hofstra, and retired 21 seasons and two national titles later. Now, Neptune, formerly an assistant under Wright, looks to carry forward the legacy built for the program by Massimino.