Rollie Massimino, who won 816 college basketball games and coached underdog Villanova to the 1985 national championship, died Wednesday at 82. Massimino, who had been battling lung cancer, passed away in his Florida home.
“He put up a heck of a fight, and for the most part, not many people knew he was actually in that battle,” former Villanova Wildcat Harold Pressley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He just has that personality that he won’t let it show on his face when he’s talking to you. But wow, what a tremendous man and role model and mentor and friend and father-figure. He just was the complete package. He took care of so many people. He was ready to help anybody and everybody.”
Massimino coached at Villanova from 1973-92, UNLV from 1992-94, Cleveland State from 1996-2003 and Kesier University, an NAIA program in West Palm Beach, from 2006-17.
“He really did it all in the coaching world,” the 54-year-old Pressley said. “He wasn’t afraid to play anybody in the country. In fact, my freshman year, after North Carolina beat Georgetown, Massimino said, ‘We’re going to play North Caorlina, and we’re going to play in Chapel Hill.’ Everybody told him it was crazy, and we had a chance to get out of it because there was a snow storm. His first words were, ‘Are you nuts? Of course we’re going to play them. We don’t care if we got to drive all the way down there. We’re going to play them.’ He was just so competitive. If you go around the country and you just talk to different players and coaches, they all just had the utmost respect for Massimino and just his style and his contribution to the game and his absolute care about college basketball and people in general.”
Somehow, Massimino is not in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Both Pressley and Scott Ferrall expect that to change in the near future.
“Well, this was the year that we all thought he was going in,” Pressley said. “It seemed like a lock. Unfortunately, things just didn’t go the right way. His actual words were, ‘That’s not the important thing to me. The important thing was to make sure that these kids got where they needed to go, to make sure that they all graduated from college and to make sure they were the best people they could possibly be.’ That was really chilling when he actually said that – and he said it to the entire team – and he truly meant it. Nobody else was around. ‘It would be nice for me to get in, but that was not the ultimate (goal).’ I’m sure that whether it’s next year or the next chance they can vote on it, I’m sure he will be in the Hall of Fame.”