University Mourns Loss of Former Coach Rollie Massimino



Villanova coach Rollie Massimino takes a victory ride with his players on the floor after Villanova defeated North Carolina in NCAA Southeast Regional finals, Sunday, March 24, 1985 in Birmingham. Players are Harold Pressley, left, and Brian Harrington. Villanova won 56-44. (AP Photo)

This Wednesday, Aug. 30, the University lost legendary former men’s basketball Head Coach, Roland “Rollie” Massimino. Massimino passed peacefully in his Florida home surrounded by his loved ones at the age of 82. Though Massimino’s passing has left Wildcats everywhere in a state of mourning, his legacy will endure through those members of the University’s community whom he worked with and inspired during his 19 years at the helm of the men’s basketball program.

“Coach Mass was just bigger than life, you just thought if anybody was gonna beat cancer and never die you thought it would be coach Mass, Jay Wright said. “It’s a big void in this Villanova basketball family, his presence was just so powerful.”

During his long and extremely successful collegiate coaching career Massimino earned 816 wins (357 of those were with the Wildcats), one of which went down in college basketball history as one of the greatest upsets of all time. On April 1, 1985 Massimino’s Wildcats stunned No. 1 ranked Georgetown to claim the University’s first ever national championship. The Wildcats came into the tournament as an 8 seed and were an enormous underdog against a Georgetown team that contained future NBA hall of famer, Patrick Ewing.

For coach Massimino the most important part of building a successful team, was turning that team into a family, and this philosophy served him well as he found success wherever he coached. After leading the Wildcats to the Elite 8 four times in addition to the historic title run of 1985, Massimino amassed 20 victories in the NCAA tournament. He went on to claim a NAIA Division II title as the head coach of Keiser University in 2012, and earned his final win last December, when Keiser beat Trinity Baptist 77-47.

But there was much more to Massimino than his tremendous accomplishments on the court. His love of community and his ability to foster a sense of family within his teams and the larger Villanova community saw Massimino become an integral part of the University’s community. As former players attest, Massimino helped shaped the lives of many Villanovans and leaves behind not only his wife of 59 years and 17 grandchildren, but a family of innumerable Wildcats who are forever grateful for his friendship and guidance, including Coach Wright.

“The family of Villanova basketball has always been strong,” Wright said, “But when Coach Mass came here, he taught all of us how to perpetuate that. . . he made sure that it always lived on, and that’s the best thing about Coach Mass, he’s such a powerful force, all the great players and the coaches that coached with him, we are all products of him.”

We at The Villanovan would like to personally thank Coach Massimino for his immense service to the University, and extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

A memorial Mass will be held for Massimino on campus, though no specifics have been reported as of yet.