CLEVELAND - Rollie Massimino, the architect behind one of college basketball's greatest upsets, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82.
Massimino led Villanova to an improbable 66-64 win over Georgetown to win the 1985 NCAA national title. The Hoyas, led by Patrick Ewing, were the defending champions and heavy favorites against Massimino's 8th-seeded Wildcats.
He coached at Villanova for 19 years, before moving on to UNLV in 1992 to replace Jerry Tarkanian. He stayed with the Rebels for two seasons, then became head coach of the Cleveland State Vikings in 1996.
In 7 seasons with the Vikings, Massimino's teams finished 90-113. His best year with Cleveland State was in 2000-01, when the Vikings went 19-13, with a 9-5 record in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League).
"Every basketball lifer has a void in their heart today," Cleveland State head coach Dennis Felton said in a statement. "Coach Mass was a giant of basketball because he loved the game and was an easy guy to love. He dramatically impacted the lives of so many young players and brought joy to thousands of fans. I know that CSU and its fans are glad that he once graced our sideline.
"I feel blessed that I was able to talk and share with Coach Mass recently. Witnessing his incredible optimism, strength and drive to serve in the face of severe health challenges in recent years has truly been inspirational. We wish his family peace and thank them for sharing him with us all these years."
Massimino began his coaching career at Stonybrook in 1969 before taking over at Villanova. He recently completed his 11th season as the head coach at Keiser University in Florida where he led the Seahawks to nine NAIA Division II Tournament appearances and 312 wins, including a national runner-up finish in 2012. Massimino recorded 816 victories over the course of his career as a college head coach.
Massimino had been battling lung cancer. He died at his home in Florida, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
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