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Rollie Massimino

Updated on March 23, 2015

Coach Rollie Massimino

Rollie Massimino will always be remembered by long-time college basketball fans such as myself for leading the Villanova Wildcats to a stunning NCAA championship in 1985, despite entering the tournament as an eighth seed. One should also note however, that his 515 career wins also make him one of only 17 coaches in NCAA history with more than 500 career victories.

Creative Commons photo courtesy Wikipedia/Dealphungo

Coach Massimino celebrates capturing the 1985 National Championship with the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Ed Pinkney.

Photo courtesy 85wildcats.com

The 1985 championship game is often cited among the greatest upsets in college basketball history. This Villanova team remains the lowest-seeded team (#8) to win the tournament.

College Coaching Career

Wikipedia Entry

Massimino debuted at the collegiate coaching level in 1969 as the head coach of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His first team went 19-6, won the conference championship, and earned a berth in the NCAA small college tournament. Massimino's next step was an assistant's position at the University of Pennsylvania under Chuck Daly, most recently of the NBA's Orlando Magic.

In March 1973, Massimino left Penn to succeed John Kraft as the head coach at Villanova. During the 1984-85 season, Massimino's club pulled off one the great upsets in college basketball history by knocking off top-seeded Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.), 66-64, in the 1985 NCAA Tournament Championship Game. The road to the finals was even harder, starting with a win on the home court of #9-seed Dayton, then wins over #1-seed Michigan, #4-seed Maryland with Player of the Year Len Bias, #2-seed North Carolina and Dean Smith, and then a Final Four victory over #2-seeded Memphis State. After that season he rejected a subsequent offer to coach the New Jersey Nets, claiming that he wanted more time for his personal life.

In 1992, he resigned from Villanova to take the head coaching job at UNLV. Initially, the hope was that he would restore the success and credibility of UNLV after its 1991-92 probation and forced resignation of Jerry Tarkanian. Two years later, he was forced out when it was revealed he and UNLV president Robert Maxson had cut a side deal to lift Massimino's salary above the figure reported to the state, which the Nevada Ethics Commission decided violated state ethics laws as well as UNLV rules.

In 1996, he ended up coaching at Cleveland State University, where his seven-year record was 90-113 and was bought out of his contract following a series of off-court issues.

He returned to Villanova, and was embraced by the school once again, having traveled with the Villanova basketball team during the 2005-2006 season as part of Villanova's official traveling party.

He currently is the head coach for the men's basketball team at Northwood University Florida campus, a private school in West Palm Beach, FL that plays in the NAIA. The 2006-2007 year was the first basketball team the Northwood Florida campus competed in the The Sun Conference. The Seahawks' first game was against one of Coach Massimino's old teams, which he won a championship with in 1985, the Villanova Wildcats, where the old defeated the new 97-60. In his first three seasons with the Seahawks, Massimino has led Northwood to three of FSC regular season titles, three appearances in the NAIA National tournament, where the Seahawks reached the Elite Eight in 2008, and a 77-23 record.

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1985 Championship Review

Meeting the "Gipper"

Massimino and his '85 Wildcats meet President Ronald Reagan during their celebratory trip to the White House.

Photo courtesy 85wildcats.com

More on the '85 Tourney

The 1985 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament involved 64 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball. This was the first year the field was expanded to 64 teams, from 53 in the previous year's tournament. It began on March 7, 1985, and ended with the championship game on April 1 in Lexington, Kentucky. A total of 63 games were played.

Eight-seed Villanova, coached by Rollie Massimino, won the national title with a 66-64 victory in the final game over Georgetown, coached by John Thompson. Ed Pinckney of Villanova was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The game is often cited among the greatest upsets in college basketball history. This Villanova team remains the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament. The game is also notable as the last played without a shot clock.

This year's Final Four saw an unprecedented and unmatched three teams from the same conference, with Big East members Villanova and Georgetown joined by St. John's. The only "interloper" in the Big East party was Memphis State, then of the Metro Conference. (Memphis State's 1985 Final Four appearance was vacated due to....(read more)

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