Legendary Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball coach Ronald Vincent “Rollie” Massimino has died at the age of 82 after succumbing to “health related matters,” CBS 12 reported.
It was reported Tuesday that Massimino entered hospice care as his undiclosed health issues continued to decline. He reportedly passed away at his home with “family, friends and fellow coaching greats” at his side.
Philly.com noted that Massimino was suffering from lung cancer when he died.
Massimino is one of the most decorated college basketball coaches, having coached for over 60 years. While he’s best known for his time leading Villanova’s basketball program, he most recently coached at Keiser University in Florida.
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.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Massimino Coached for 19 Seasons at Villanova
Massimino is best known for coaching for Villanova for 19 seasons, where his teams went 355-241. He started coaching at the school in 1976 and continuously made strides, leading the team to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in his second season as coach.
His staple career highlight came during the 1984-85 season, when the underdog Wildcats entered the tournament and advanced all the way to the NCAA Championship, where they played against top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas. The road to the game was arguably more impressive than the championship victory, however.
The Wildcats won their first game against No. 9-seed Dayton on its home court and then upset No. 1-seed Michigan, No. 4-seed Maryland, No. 2-seed North Carolina and then defeated Memphis State, a No. 2 seed, in the Final Four.
Villanova shocked the world by winning the game, 66-64. Afterwards, Massimino was offered a job to coach the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, but he declined to do so, citing wanting to spend time with his family as the main reason.
2. He Left to Coach at UNLV & Was Involved in Controversy
Before coaching at Villanova, Massimino got a job in 1969 as the head coach at Stony Brook. In his first season there, the team won the conference championship and earned an NCAA small college tournament berth. He coached them for two seasons before opting to become an assistant at the University of Pennsylvania under coach Chuck Daly.
Finally, his prominence in the college game was realized and he was offered a D-I coaching job at Villanova in 1973, where he succeeded Jack Kraft.
In 1992, Massimino decided to end his tenure at Villanova to take a job coaching at UNLV. He said he wanted to the job because he wanted to “restore the success and credibility” of the school after it was placed on probation under Jerry Tarkanian.
However, controversy arose at the school after just two seasons when it was determined that he and UNLV president Robert Maxson cut a deal on the side to boost his salary above that was reported to the state. With no proper documentation of the deal, it was ruled that the school violated ethics laws, and he was ultimately forced out of his job.
After a few years out of the college coaching realm, Massimino landed a job at Cleveland State University in 1996, where he coached for seven years and had a dismal 90-113 coaching record. His contract was bought out after it was discovered that a few of his players were arrested for crimes including academic fraud.
3. He Was Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 & Coached at Keiser Since 2006
Massimino came to an agreement to become to the head basketball coach at Keiser in West Palm Beach, Florida in 2006, a position he held up until his death. The school is also known as Northwood University. Once the news he has passed away surfaced, Keiser issued an emotional statement remembering its longtime coach.
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. 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.
Massimino’s prominence in college basketball was recognized in 2013 when he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame while still coaching at Keiser. Three years later, he achieved another historic feat in his coaching career.
On December 14th, 2016, he earned win No. 800 when Keiser defeated Trinity Baptist 77-47. He became one of only 22 men’s basketball coaches ever to achieve that milestone.
At Keiser, Massimino coached his teams to a 298-75 overall record and ended his coaching overall career with an 816-462 record.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Massimino was one of 14 finalists, along with Chris Webber, to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
4. Massimino Was Born in New Jersey & Went to School in Vermont
Massimino grew up in New Jersey and attended Hillside High School, graduating in 1952. He went on to attend the University of Vermont and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1956.
While attending Vermont, he played on the basketball team for three years and saw his love and dedication for the game grow. He continued his path toward a successful coaching career when he earned his master’s degree in health and physical education from Rutgers University in 1959.
5. He was There When the Wildcats won the Championship in 2016
When Villanova made the NCAA Championship once again in 2016, Massimino’s wife was sick, and it wasn’t confirmed that he’d be able to make the big game.
However, a Villanova trustee sent him a plane, and it was off to Houston to watch as the Wildcats achieved championship status once again when they stunned North Carolina with a buzzer-beating shot to win the program’s second-ever national championship.
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.