We are all familiar with the old adage, “All deaths come in threes”:
If you count legendary football coach at Northwestern and Notre Dame during the 1960’s in Ara Parseghian from early August, along with two days after Michigan State lost their first legendary coach in Jud Heathcote, word came down from NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida late Wednesday night as Coach Massimino spent the last 11 years as coach died of cancer at age 82 after briefly being entered into hospice care.
He along with John Thompson of Georgetown, Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse helped make the Big East a beast of a conference during the 1980’s. Every game was like a war, and it was not common to have two top ranked teams play each other in a three day span.
Even to his last breath, Coach Thompson still considered Rollie a good close friend expressing his thoughts Thursday morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike show.
Making early stops at Stony Brook, UNLV long before they became a powerhouse, and Cleveland State before making his mark at the private Philadelphia school in Villanova, his teams won a whopping 816 games in 41 seasons, 357 of those victories coming during his 19-year run at Villanova. A proud member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, he helped coach the Wildcats to the Elite Eight five different times between 1978 to 1988. His last 11 years on the NAIA level saw the Seahawks win an amazing 80 percent of his games, compiling a rather nifty 298-75 record.
“The Nova Nation has lost a legend and great leader. Coach’s love of family, community and teamwork were evident in every game his teams ever played. All of us, as coaches and players, idolized Coach Mass. He inspired and impacted all of our lives. He never stopped being a cherished mentor and friend.”
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright in statement released by the school on Wednesday
His Wildcats are still the lowest seeded team (number 8) to win the NCAA Tournament. In 1985, the tournament expanded from the then pool of 48 schools to the more popular 64 team model.
Georgetown was the defending champions entering the 1985 NCAA Tournament. The Hoyas were led by 3 time National Player of the Year Patrick Ewing and lost only three games prior to their April 1 encounter at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
Most of the nation felt that a dynasty was in the making, even after surviving two close shave wins over Villanova during the regular season.
Their average margin of victory in the first two rounds was 21 points, while Villanova used the upset card to topple Dayton in their own gym by two points and later would upset the Southeast top seed that year in Michigan by four, Maryland by three and then second seed North Carolina by a final of 56-44.
Georgetown used excellent lockdown defense to throw off the upstarts that year in Loyola of Chicago 65-53 and a good Georgia Tech squad 60-54. Compared to their 1984 championship run, that group of Hoyas won three straight tournament games by double digits.
After St. John’s and then Memphis State fell on semifinal Saturday, it set up the historic confrontation. How does 78.6 percent field goal shooting tell the story?
CBS Sports described things very well and setting the table that memorable Monday night was veteran NFL announcer Dick Stockton. Even more notable that year it was Jim Nantz describing the action in his very first NCAA Tournament for CBS.
The legendary Brent Musburger and Billy Packer had the call: