PHILADELPHIA – Rollie Massimino, who coached Villanova to an improbable national championship in 1985, has died at the age of 82.
Keiser, an NAIA school in West Palm Beach, Fla., announced Wednesday that Massimino had passed away at his home in Florida. He had served as the coach of the school’s men’s basketball team for the past 10 years.
Massimino had been in relatively good health before he battled lung cancer in recent years. He had surgery to remove a tumor in his lung in 2011, suffered a collapsed lung and had brain surgery in 2016.
Born Roland Vincent “Rollie” Massimino, the affable coach had won more than 800 games in his coaching career, but is best known for leading a then-eighth-seeded Wildcats team to a victory over Patrick Ewing and top-seeded Georgetown in the 1985 title game.
“He was a life coach, not just a basketball coach,” former Villanova star Ed Pinckney said, per ESPN. “Coach was all about family. He was an unbelievable man — and a great person.”
Massimino coached the Wildcats for 19 seasons and compiled a 355-241 record before leaving for UNLV in 1992 to replace Jerry Tarkanian. He spent two years with the Runnin’ Rebels and also coached at Cleveland State from 1996-2003.
Massimino joined Chuck Daly’s staff at Penn before becoming the head coach at Villanova in 1973. The Wildcats went to 11 NCAA Tournaments — including three Sweet 16s, one Elite Eight and its first national championship under Massimino’s watch.
Including nearly 300 wins while at Northwood/Keiser, Massimino’s career record is 816-462 in 41 seasons.
“As our campus community deeply mourns the loss of Coach Massimino, we extend our warmest thoughts and condolences to his wife Mary Jane and the entire Massimino family,” Keiser University chancellor Arthur Keiser said in a statement. “We are so truly honored to have shared this time with him and take some degree of comfort in knowing the positive impact he has had on college students for the last four decades remains immeasurable.