Legendary Villanova basketball coach Rollie Massimino passed away yesterday, August 30th at the age of 82. A true basketball lifer, Massimino was devoted to the game of basketball right to the end of his life.

Starting as an assistant coach at Penn under Chuck Daly, Massimino took over as head coach at Villanova in the early 70s. Known for his fiery yet funny personality, “Daddy Mass” led Villanova to 11 NCAA tournaments in all and gained legendary status when he took his Wildcats to an improbable and, what some would say, miraculous NCAA national title in 1985. Massimino and his Villanova squad pulled off one of the most iconic upsets in basketball history beating John Thompson’s highly favored Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game. That year he was named National Coach of the Year by both MacGregor Sporting Goods and Playboy magazine (while in 1982 he earned Big East Coach of the Year).

In 1992 Massimino moved on from Villanova to replace John Tarkanian at UNLV. Then a few years later he took over at Cleveland State, where he coached for seven years.

When it seemed to many that his coaching life had run its course, Massimino moved to Florida. But just spending time with friends and other former coaches on the golf course and settling into retired life wasn’t Massimino’s plan. Instead, he took the head-coaching position at the obscure Northwood University (now Keiser University) in 2006 as it was just starting a basketball program. Though the small NAIA school had no gym and only a few outdoor courts, Massimino built the Keiser Seahawks program from scratch with his “family coaching style”. Even battling through different bouts with cancer in the ensuing years, Massimino still managed to lead the Seahawks to nine National Tournaments including two Final Four appearances. And as he passed away htis week, he was still coaching 

With over 800 wins in his career to date, Massimino is one of only three coaches in college basketball history to reach the 700-win plateau and win an NCAA National Championship during their coaching career. For his achievements in college basketball, Massimino was elected as a member of the 2013 class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here is a lesson we can learn from Rollie Massimino’s incredible coaching career:

When you lead out of pure “love of the game” and not for notoriety or credit, your personal example inspires others around you to give their best.

Nobody loved basketball more than Massimino. Octogenarians do not coach in near obscurity unless they love it, unless it is in their blood. For Massimino, it was in his marrow. Coach Mass put forth an impressive coaching résumé in his younger years. But what inspired awe among his peers and pupils was his tenacity and grit in coaching through illness and age at a tiny, unknown NAIA school, winning 298 games over eight seasons.

Jay Bilas