Massimino led Villanova to NCAA title in 1985
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rollie Massimino's next game is 18 months away, but he was in regular-season form Wednesday, wearing a path on the floor as he paced, shouting while he discussed his return to coaching.
There was no brass band and no cheerleading squad, but Massimino still managed to transform his introductory news conference at tiny Northwood University into a pep rally.
"I'm really, really, really excited," he hollered.
Golfing buddies Chuck Daly and Bobby Orr were there, along with a handful of media and several dozen curious students. The school's new coach held up a blue and white jersey, then held up a basketball stamped with the words, "Rollie rolls again."
"We're going to have a lot of fun, so be ready," Massimino shouted. "Go Seahawks!"
He said the first game will be at home in November 2006 against his former school, Villanova. Twenty years ago, he led the Wildcats to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history, a victory over defending champion Georgetown in the title game.
Now, at age 70, he has agreed to become director of basketball operations and start an NAIA Division II program for men and women at Northwood. He'll coach the men's team at the private business school, which has 950 students on its West Palm Beach campus, 30 minutes from Massimino's home in Jupiter.
Athletic director Rick Smoliak, who coached baseball at Stony Brook 35 years ago when Massimino worked there, approached his old friend about the job.
"I asked my wife and obviously got a dirty look," Massimino said.
But Mary Jane Massimino decided to let her husband say yes.
"There's only so much golf you can play," she said. "When we first came down here, he was playing 50 holes a day."
Not every septuagenarian in Florida is retired. Jack McKeon, Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger happily add to their coaching win totals.
Daly smiled when asked if Massimino (515-391) was crazy for wanting to coach again.
"He's a little crazy, but he always was a little crazy," Daly said. "He's got a restless spirit, and he needs to be doing something.
"He's a ground-level coach. He has done clinics all over the world. He loves to teach basketball. This is the perfect place for him, and the perfect guy for them to get."
Massimino had been out of work since March 2003, when Cleveland State bought out the final two years of his contract. He went 90-113 in seven seasons there.
There will no pressure to win at Northwood, which merely wants to expand its athletic program and give its profile a boost, which already happened. In the past two weeks, the school has received close to 100 calls from high school prospects wanting to play for Massimino, provost John Haynie said.
"This is a school that helps students develop their entrepreneurial skills, and therefore their ability to build things," Haynie said. "That's what Rollie wants to do -- he wants to build a team. It's a great partnership."
Twenty minutes to the south, seventy-something Schnellenberger is trying to develop Florida Atlantic's fledgling football program into a national power. Massimino's aims are less lofty.
"I don't envision that this is going to be a big-time program," he said after his news conference. "I'm not going to go crazy and work 14 hours a day like I used to. We'll hire some young people who are enthusiastic."
Massimino said the big appeal was the chance to build a program from scratch. That includes a multipurpose recreational building under construction, which will feature a gym seating about 1,500.
"That will be plenty," he said.
Armed with six scholarships, Massimino said he'll recruit mostly in the state. The Seahawks will play about 30 games and compete in the Florida Sun Conference.
It's a long way from the Final Four, but that's fine with Massimino. He's been there.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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