As much as Rollie Massimino became a legendary coach at Villanova following its stunning upset of Georgetown for the 1985 NCAA championship game, there was more to know about him besides the on-court X’s and O’s.
He spent 47 years as a college coach, the final years coming at Keiser University from 2006 before he died at age 82 on August 30, 2017.
Friday, he was honored and remembered during a golf tournament hosted by Keiser at the PGA National Resort & Spa.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Massimino’s commitment to student success and leadership in competition, the classroom and communities through student scholarships.
“He had a never-ending enthusiasm for the game,” said Dante Calabria, who was an assistant under Massimino and is the current head coach for the men’s basketball team at Keiser. I was fortunate to meet him when he recruited me to play at Villanova.”
Calabria said Massimino constantly would remind him about choosing North Carolina over Villanova.
“I remember when I came into work and went into his office I would tell him ‘Coach, I think we should run this play,’” Calabria said. “So, he started calling me Shakespeare, because I wrote more plays than Shakespeare.”
Massimino’s expanded coaching career went through five colleges, finishing with a 816-462 record.
He spent the final 11 years of his coaching career at Keiser, finishing with a 298-75 record, while compiling four 30-plus winning seasons.
Rollie’s widow, Mary Jane Massimino, recalled what made her husband such a successful coach.
“He was a good people person,” she said. “He was wonderful with his family, but basketball was his passion. I enjoyed it after I got used to it. I went to games because that’s where the action was. It was fun being along for the ride.”
Massimino’s daughter, Lee Ann, recalled her father’s dedication to the game.
“He was always learning the game until the day he died,” Lee Ann said. “He would take down a pen and write down plays when there was something he could learn from watching games on television.”
Massimino’s coaching career began in 1956 at Cranford High School in New Jersey as an assistant. That came on the heels after playing three years at the University of Vermont from 1953-56.
After a seven-year stint at Lexington High in Massachusetts, His college career began at Stoney Brook University in New York in 1969. From there it was on to the glory days in the powerful Big East at Villanova, UNLV, Cleveland State and then Keiser, where he turned an upstart program into a national powerhouse. Keiser was NAIA national semifinalists in 2011 and national runner-up in 2012.
Massimino would frequently take any free time he had off the court to support Keiser’s growing sports program.
“His passion for young people, enthusiasm and energy level I’m sure was as high as it ever was in his career,” said Keiser football coach Doug Socha. “He was a good mentor to me in the few interactions I had with him. You can learn a lot from a guy that has walked in his shoes for all those years.”
Keiser president Gary Vonk recalled the recurring theme of Massimino’s character as a coach.
“Rollie loved the kids and had a passion for the game,” Vonk said. “He enjoyed coming into work every day right up till the end. He’ll be missed.”