Rollie Massimino ready for return to Villanova Print
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Wednesday, 05 November 2008 14:00
NCAAB Headline News


 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Jay Wright loved everything about Rollie Massimino.
The arms flailing and feet stomping over every argument with an official. The gregarious personality, the way he molded Villanova into a national power, how he kept former players so close as if they were family.
It was the kind of career Wright wanted to emulate.
``As soon as he became the coach, he was my idol,'' said Wright, starting his eighth season as Villanova coach. ``I loved him. I loved the way he made the team a family and they called him 'Daddy Mass.' He was my mentor.''
``Daddy Mass'' is coming home.
Massimino returns to a familiar spot Thursday night: In Philadelphia, coaching at the Spectrum and trying to win in front of so many of his former Wildcats. The only difference is, Massimino will coach tiny NAIA school Northwood in an exhibition game against No. 23 Villanova.
going to Pat's Steaks and we can't wait to practice at the Spectrum.''
Massimino, who coached Villanova from 1973-92, is forever linked to leading the 1985 team to an improbable national championship. Villanova's 66-64 win over Georgetown on April 1, 1985, in Lexington, Ky., is often called The Perfect Game, and the Wildcats are still the lowest seed (8) to win a national title.
How great were the Wildcats that night? They shot 22-for-28 from the floor and made nine of 10 attempts during the second half, in an era before the shot clock.
``He is a legend here,'' Wright said. ``He is loved here. All his players that played for him still stay in touch with him. All the players that came after him know of the legend of 1985. It's always kind of magical.''
Wright rooted for the Wildcats growing up suburban Philadelphia and was an assistant at Rochester in 1984 when he was selected to work Massimino's summer basketball camp. Wright was nervous the first time he met his coaching idol, but the two soon struck a friendship that eventually led to a job on Massimino's staff. Wright served under Massimino from 1987-92 at Villanova, then another two years with his mentor at UNLV.
``Working for him for seven years should be measured in dog years,'' Wright said. ``It's like 49 years that I've worked for him. He works his assistants harder than anybody.''
hallowed Big 5, never matched his Villanova run at stops with the Runnin' Rebels and Cleveland State. When he resigned at Cleveland State in 2003 after seven seasons, Massimino's coaching career appeared over.
He surfaced at Villanova where he served the program as sort of an unofficial goodwill ambassador. He was quick to throw his arm around a player at practice, and was more like a grandfather than a coach.
Villanova retired a jersey for its former coach in 2005 as part of a 20-year celebration for its national championship.
Massimino is proud of the way Wright has built Villanova into a perennial Top 25 team and frequent contender for the Big East title.
``He does a great job at Villanova, better than I did,'' Massimino said. ``He's brought back all the alums, the former players. He has a great feeling for people. He works tremendously hard - that's the part I taught him to do.
``He's my boy.''
Hanging with the Wildcats, though, rekindled Massimino's desire to coach. He started the Northwood program from scratch and was quickly working 12-hour days again, seven days a week. The team started play in 2006 and the inaugural regular-season game was a 97-60 loss to - who else? - Wright and Villanova.
turned into something that was really fun to do.''
Wright was surprised when Massimino told him about his desire to coach again. Now, Wright thinks Massimino - who turns 74 on Nov. 13 - might coach another 10 years.
``He's got so much energy, so much passion,'' Wright said. ``He calls me all the time talking about plays, about recruits. He's as passionate as he ever was.''
While Wright ``dreaded, hated'' coaching against Massimino two years ago in a game that counted, he expects a more relaxed atmosphere for Thursday's exhibition. Wright organized a postgame party for Massimino, the Villanova staff and dozens of former players who want to see their former coach at least one more time.
Massimino doesn't know how much longer he wants to coach.
``I don't know, maybe until Thursday when Jay beats us like a drum,'' he said, laughing. ``When I stop having fun, that's when I'll stop. Right now, I'm really having fun.''
 

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