Rollie Massimino took an unintended assign a integrate of weeks ago. He’s 82 years old, 7 months private from mind surgery, one year past pang a collapsed lung, nonetheless there he was, incidentally colliding with a immature basketball actor who was perplexing to finish a quick mangle during practice. Fortunately, a actor was a 140-pound guard, not a 240-pound forward, nonetheless a collision still sent Massimino crashing to a floor. It non-stop a indenture on his elbow. “Got 3 stritches,” he says with a laugh. “It was a pain in a neck some-more than anything.”
Suffice to say, this is not a required approach for a male of Massimino’s age to be spending his time. While many of his peers are strolling fairways and examination sunsets—those propitious adequate to be means to do such things, anyway—Massimino still prefers to spend his days possibly training basketball in a gym or articulate about it over a picture of pasta. The mythological lifer is now in his tenth deteriorate as a conduct manager during Keiser University, an NAIA Division II propagandize in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Massimino has mostly been toiling in shade ever given he concluded to build a module from scratch, though final week he grabbed a public’s courtesy when he notched his 800th career win. The feat drew copiousness of media coverage and constructed a inundate of congratulatory phone calls, though once a train changed on, Massimino went behind to doing what he loves to do. Or rather, what he needs to do, even during this late theatre of his life.
“He’s like an addict. Every singular day he’s got to get his fill,” says Ken Gabelman, who has worked as Massimino’s partner a 9 seasons. “He usually loves to be on a justice with those kids, right in a center of a action. We have to constantly be pulling him back. You’d consider being who he is he would hang to what he knows, though he is always looking to learn something and try new things. He wants to get better.”
It was never in Massimino’s skeleton to finish his career this distant off a beaten path. He was usually perplexing to assistance an aged friend, Rick Smoliak, who had turn a jaunty executive during Northwood University. (Last year, Northwood’s West Palm Beach campus was acquired by Keiser University, and a propagandize adopted Keiser’s name.) Smoliak was looking to start men’s and women’s basketball programs, so he called to collect Massimino’s brain. It wasn’t prolonged before Massimino, who had recently changed to south Florida evidently to retire, let himself get seduced by a suspicion of coaching again. He told Smoliak he would have to ask his wife, Mary Jane. She gave him her blessing, of course.
At a press discussion announcing his hire, Massimino grandly announced that Northwood would play a really initial home diversion opposite his former employer, Villanova, where Massimino famously won a 1985 NCAA championship around an epic dissapoint over Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown. The problem was, he had neglected to pass along this information to Villanova’s stream coach, Jay Wright, who schooled a news as he was pushing in his automobile and his dungeon phone started to buzz. Wright, who was an partner to “Coach Mass” for 5 years, concluded to play a diversion anyway.
That’s a kind of faithfulness Massimino has cultivated over a years, stretching behind to his days as a high propagandize manager in New Jersey and Massachusetts from 1962 to ’69. His initial college conduct coaching pursuit was during Stony Brook, where he went 34–14 over dual seasons. He afterwards spent 3 seasons as an partner to Chuck Daly during Penn before holding over as a conduct manager during Villanova in 1973. The players would frequently come to his home, where Mary Jane would prepare them pasta. Area coaches had an open invitation to attend his practices and hang around to speak round for as prolonged as they wanted. It was a poetic time. Villanova basketball was one big, extended family, and Coach Mass was a unquestioned patriarch.
Things began to go green after that storybook run to a title. Word around city was that Massimino’s ego was flourishing to an bulky distance for a conservative, Catholic university. He finally left in 1992 to take over during UNLV in a arise of Jerry Tarkanian’s dismissal, though he had to renounce dual years after after it was suggested that Massimino had cut an unreported side understanding with then-UNLV boss Robert Maxson to boost his salary, that disregarded state ethics laws. That chagrin sent Massimino into basketball purgatory. He was out of a diversion for dual years before removing hired during Cleveland State. Massimino’s teams there struggled (he posted a sub-.500 record in 5 of his 8 seasons), though things were even worse off a court, where several of his players were arrested and a module faced allegations of educational fraud. Massimino and a propagandize split ways in 2003.
When he and Mary Jane staid in Florida, Massimino figured his coaching days were done. He clinging many of his time to marathon days personification golf with his buddies, Daly many of all. “We played 50 holes a day,” Massimino says. “I am not exaggerating. Fifty holes a day. We’d roar during any other a whole time, and we was always a misfortune one.” When a conversations with Northwood incited serious, Massimino’s pals knew they were about to mislay a personification partner. “Chuck always called me ‘the lifer.’ That’s accurately what we am,” he says.
From Northwood’s standpoint, it was a shining hire. Massimino didn’t usually move a proven ability to teach. He also hexed a immeasurable network of contacts built adult over his many decades in a game. Though he spends roughly no time on a highway recruiting (“Budgets are opposite here”), he has been means to move in peculiarity players by fielding calls and following adult on tips. In his really initial year, Northwood done a NAIA Division II inhabitant tournament, a 32-team, five-games-in-seven-days grub that is hold any year nearby Branson, Mo. The Seahawks have played in a contest in 8 of his 9 years. In 2012 they done it all a approach to a championship game, where they lost, 63–46.
As unsatisfactory as that outcome was, Massimino says he didn’t take it that hard. “I’m not as tough as we used to be,” he says. “I’m some-more laid back.” Those tighten to him would desire to differ. Massimino was treated for lung cancer 5 years ago, and final May he had medicine to mislay a growth in his brain. Five days each month, he takes medicine orally, that treats his cancer though also saps his strength. He still finds a approach to make it into a gym many each day. “We call him a ironman,” Gabelman says. “He could be tired, he could be run down, he could be dragging, though once he gets on a court, he has some-more appetite than all of us.”
Massimino has had to assistance Mary Jane conflict emphysema as well. Next year, God willing, they will applaud their 60th anniversary. When Villanova done a championship diversion final April, Massimino was battling a blood clot and kidney stones and suspicion he competence not be means to get to a diversion in Houston. He done a outing interjection to a rich Villanova upholder who sent him a private plane. That diversion represented utterly a full round moment. Massimino sat a few rows behind Villanova’s bench, and when Kris Jenkins’s game-winning 3 ripped by a net, a initial picture a home assembly saw was Massimino’s ecstatic reaction. After all those years, Rollie still done for good TV.
He is acutely wakeful how propitious he is, not usually to be alive and in comparatively good health though to do what he loves most. His tighten friend, Daly, died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer. Massimino still has scarcely 40 pairs of his shoes. For all his travels, Massimino still relishes a possibility to winnow new ideas from other coaches. The players from his ’85 group come down to revisit him each year for a reunion. When he got that 800th win, it was as if each friend he ever done in his life called during a same time, infusing him anew with zeal, thankfulness and determination.
In a end, it’s a relations with a players that drives him a most. Massimino boasts that his group usually reported a 3.14 grade-point average. “And 3 four-point-ohs,” he adds. He requires them to stop by his bureau each day to check in, usually like he did during his prior jobs. He invites them over to his residence for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He tells them stories about his excellence days. He thinks this could be a best group he has had given holding a job.
He is asked for a thousandth time how prolonged he will continue to do this. “That’s a genuine good question. we don’t know. Let me see how we feel,” he says. “I wouldn’t be coaching if we didn’t suffer it. It keeps me young. we can yell, we can scream. we can still punch a small bit, we know what we mean?”
He might be 82, though Massimino has proven that he can still strew a small blood for this game. Truth is, he doesn’t mind a occasional collision. At slightest he’s still in a gym.