Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rollie Massimino

Bad week for college basketball continued as it lost another of its legendary coaches as former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino passed away today. Massimino was the coach of the 1985 Villanova team that shocked Georgetown in the NCAA Final as a 8-seed. 

Massimino was one of the many great characters of the Big Easy heyday. Boeheim, Thompson, Carlesimo, Carnesecca and Massimino stalked the sidelines throughout the 80's all taking their respective schools to at least one Final Four. Of all those coaches, Massimino's Wildcats were often the underdog and they relished the role. Massimino left Villanova following the 91-92 season with a bitter taste in his mouth. Accused of breaking up the Big 5 games and a grumbling fan base helped push him to UNLV.

He didn't find much success after leaving Philadelphia but was still widely respected as one of the great basketball coaches of not only the northeast, but all of college hoops. Forever a coach, Massimino spent the last 11 years coaching at Division II NAIA Keiser University in Florida.

Eventually, former assistant Jay Wright brought Rollie back into the Villanova family and Massimino was seen in the crowd during the Wildcats title win over North Carolina in 2016. 

His passing is a reminder that many of the great characters of the sport are long gone. In the corporatized world of college athletics, the days of coaches like Massimino are long gone. Like Jud Heathcote, it's doubtful someone like Rollie could survive in today's 24/7 media glare. It's a shame. While his teams played a grinding style I'd certainly hate today, Massimino was the type of guy you'd love to have a beer with. College basketball needs more Massimino's not less.

I've thought about what coaches today are true characters of the sport. Roy Williams? John Calipari? Jim Boeheim? Bob Huggins Those are the 4 I could think of and all 4 are throwbacks to contemporaries of Rollie Massimino. And out of those 4,Calipari is the closest thing. Love him or hate him, but his brutal honesty about himself and the sport is refreshing. Ive developed a begrudging respect for Huggins since his Cincinnati days. Boeheim has just become an angry old man.

RIP, Rollie.  You made college hoops fun.

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