Legendary Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball coach Rollie Massimino died at the age of 82 on August 30.
Massimino is best known for being the coach of one of the greatest upsets in sports history in 1985 when his No. 9-seeded Wildcats defeated the top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the 1985 National Championship, earning the first-ever title for the program.
One day prior to his death, it was reported that Massimino, who was coaching at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida, had entered hospice care. The university released a statement regarding the development, saying they’d support his family.
We are inspired by the lives (Massimino) continues to touch locally and throughout the nation and thank you for joining Keiser University in supporting the Massimino family during this extremely difficult time.
Philly.com noted that Massimino was suffering from lung cancer when he died. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his “family, friends and fellow coaching greats.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright issued a statement remembering his friend and legendary coach.
The Nova Nation has lost a legend and great leader. 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.
Massimino was married to Mary Jane Massimino and had five children and 17 grandchildren.
Here’s what you need to know about his wife, Mary Jane:
1. Rollie & Mary Jane Got Married in 1958
According to Philly.com, Rollie and Mary Jane (Reid) got married in 1958 while he served as a business instructor at Cranford High School in New Jersey.
The 2013 book The Perfect Game: How Villanova’s Shocking 1985 Upset of Mighty Georgetown Changed the Landscape of College Hoops Forever noted that the two met in October 1957 when Mary Jane, who had a long career as a teacher, asked a mutual friend for a ride to the closest train station. Rollie came along for the ride and by February 1958, the two were engaged and got married a few months later that year in August.
Rollie was in the midst of earning his master’s degree from Rutgers University when they tied the knot.
2. Mary Jane was Rollie’s Favorite Cook
The same book also spoke about how one of Rollie’s favorite things to indulge in after a long day of work was one of Mary Jane’s staple meals.
After a 2007 practice while he was coaching at Keiser, the book told the story of how, after one practice, he raced home to have a “plate or two” of her excellent cooking.
“She had, after all, been trained by Massimino’s beloved mother,” the book said.
3. Their 5 Children Were All Involved in Athletics
Like their father, the couple’s five children have been involved in collegiate athletics.
A 1986 profile of Massimino by the Chicago Sun-Times said that their daughter, Lee Anne, once coached lacrosse at Villanova. She reportedly earned her master’s degree in physical therapy in Oakland and nowadays works in the field in Scituate, Massachusetts.
Their son, Tom, was an assistant coach when Rollie coached at UNLV for two seasons. However, the tenure was short lived, as it was reported that Massimino hatched a deal with the school president to be paid above what was reported to the state. Therefore, an ethics violation was found and the school ended up forcing him out of his job, buying out his contract.
Sports Illustrated reported that Tom was paid $83,000 to leave the school when the ethics violation was discovered.
Their other daughter, Michele, once handled Rollie’s public appearances, a 1991 profile by Knight-Ridder News Service noted.
4. Mary Jane was Sick in 2016 When Rollie Attended the National Championship
When Villanova made the NCAA Championship once again in 2016, Mary Jane was sick, and it was in doubt that the infamous coach would be able to make the big game. He said a blood clot, kidney stones and Mary Jane’s health prevented him from making the trek, and there was no telling if he’d be able to see them play during their tournament run.
“It all depends on my wife,” he told USA Today prior to the game, adding that Mary Jane wouldn’t be able to travel to Houston.
He ended up attending the game, however, when a Villanova trustee sent him a plane. It was off to Houston he went, as he watched the Wildcats achieve championship status for the second time. They stunned North Carolina with a buzzer-beating shot to win.
Following the game, coach Jay Wright approached Massimino and draped his arm around him as confetti flew down from the sky.
“I almost jumped on the court,” Massimino told the media after Kris Jenkins’ game-winning shot.
5. Mary Jane Shared a Hug with Rollie After He Won No. 800
Rollie’s collegiate coaching career started at Stony Brook, and then he became the assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. After two seasons as the assistant, he was hired to coach Villanova and then at UNLV. He took a few years off after being forced out at UNLV, but was back on the sideline when he was hired by Cleveland State. A short-lived tenure at the school led to his final stint Keiser. He never retired from the coaching ranks and assembled one of the best records in history in his tenure, going 816-462 overall between all the schools.
Outside of the national championship, one of his greatest coaching achievements came on December 14, 2016, when he earned win No. 800 as the coach of Keiser. His team defeated Trinity Baptist, 77-47, and his wife was one of the first people on the court to give him a hug. He became one of just 22 men’s basketball coaches to achieve the milestone.
At the game following the historic victory, there was a ceremony to honor the feat. During it, his players and fans wore T-shirts saying, “Congrats, Coach Mass! Coach Rollie Massimino … 800 wins and counting!”
Massimino dedicated the ceremony to Mary Jane and said at the end that he thought he could coach for another decade, the Palm Beach Post reported.