May 9, 2017

Legendary basketball coach Rollie Massimino dies Aug. 30

Rollie Massimino, who coached Cleveland State University’s men’s basketball team from 1996-03, died Aug. 30 after a battle with lung cancer. He was 82 years old and a lifetime fan of the sport.

A real basketball lifer, Massimino made his collegiate coaching debut in 1969 at Stony Brook University, after coaching at the high school level since 1953.

He is most famous for his tenure at Villanova University, from 1973-92, where he amassed 355 wins. There, he led the Wildcats to the 1985 National Championship, beating top-seeded Gerogetown University in the title game. It is regarded as one of the greatest upset wins in college basketball history.

Massimino spent two years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, after which he came to Cleveland State, taking over for Mike Boyd.

“Coach Mass” did not have very much success as Cleveland State’s head coach. The team went 90-113 in his seven seasons and did not reach the NCAA Tournament. The closest the Vikings came was in 1999-00 when they went 16-14, finishing second in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League).

Despite this, Massimino is remembered well by the Cleveland State community. In a statement, new men’s basketball head coach Dennis Felton called him a “giant of basketball because he loved the game and was an easy guy to love.”

During his time at Cleveland State, he and the men’s basketball team hosted the “Reading with Rollie,” a program designed to get area school children to read more books. They challenged children in certain grade levels at the selected schools to read 10 books in 10 weeks.

Those who completed the program received tickets to a Cleveland State basketball game. There, they were congratulated by Coach Massimino on the floor at halftime. The students also received a t-shirt and a certificate of achievement.

Massimino spent the last 11 years coaching at Division II Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Fla. and he earned his 800th win last December. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, their five children and 17 grandchildren.


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