On the Road with Mike

Excited to attend the dedication ceremony for the bench installed in the Naismith Coaches Circle in honor of legendary coach Rollie Massimino and to celebrate with the Massimino family in Springfield, MA during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend.

Mike Looks Back

So proud of my good friend Rollie Massimino, who was recently inducted to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. I was one of Rollie’s assistant coaches at Villanova University from 1975-1978. VUhoops.com contributor Ed Donohue took a look at where we 1975-76 Villanova Wildcats wound up.

A. Rollie Massimino, Head Coach (3rd season): Under Massimino, the Wildcats compiled a record of 357-241 (.596) over 19 seasons. During his tenure, Villanova abandoned its independent status by joining the newly-formed Eastern Eight Conference in 1975. In 1980, the ‘Cats moved into Big East Conference. In the NCAA Tournament, Massimino had a 20-10 record (.667). He led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament eleven times, winning the Championship in 1985. His teams reached the Final Eight five times in an eleven-year span: 1978, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1988. Rollie was inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013… Read more!

Happy Birthday Rollie!

I want to wish a happy birthday to my dear friend Rollie Massimino. I thought Legends & Legacies ran a great piece on Coach Massimino a couple years back. It touches on some of his career highlights and notes the positive influence he continues to have on young players at Northwood University, where he is currently the Director of Basketball Operations and Head Men’s Basketball Coach. Go Seahawks!


On the Road with Mike: A Meeting of the Minds

Years ago, back when Frankie Sullivan, Ed Hockenberry, Mitch Buonaguro and I were assistants with Rollie Massimino at Villanova, our staff would go away for two or three days every year to strategize for the upcoming season.

Some of us returned to that tradition when Rollie, now the head coach at Northwood University, invited a panel down to Florida for a Coaching Strategy Session earlier this month. It was great to see so many familiar faces from all parts of the country who are part of the basketball community at various levels.

Back row: Mark Sanford, John Olive and Dwayne McClain Middle row: Dom Savino, Jonathan Tsipis, Ken Gabelman, Don Mackay, Ken Sullivan, Christopher Walker, Tommy Percora, Chris Champeau Front row: Mitch Buonaguro, Mike Fratello, Rollie Massimino, Dick Versace

We had high school and college coaches from both women’s and men’s teams as well as former NBA coaches including Dick Versace, who used to be Chuck Daly’s assistant with Detroit and the one-time head coach of the Indiana Pacers. The majority of us were head coaches and there were also some assistants and a couple former players who played for Rollie at Villanova and went on to coaching. John Olive played some pro ball for a couple of years and was Rollie’s assistant when Villanova won the 1985 NCAA Championship. Now he coaches at a high school in San Diego.

Rollie’s current assistant coach Dwayne McClain played in Europe for a number of years and was on the Villanova National Championship basketball team along with Ed Pinckney, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the historic win over Georgetown. Ed planned to attend, but he was named as a new assistant coach with the Bulls so he had to reroute to Chicago. Joining Thibodeau’s coaching staff is a great opportunity for him.

When we arrived in West Palm Beach we went over to the Northwood University campus and saw some of Rollie’s players working out on their own in the gym and playing pickup games. But the clinic was held at the Comfort Inn hotel five minutes from campus. We spent two complete days covering a variety of topics that Rollie had outlined before we came in.

Rollie assigned each of us a particular topic to present, though anybody could chip in. He had asked me to be ready to talk on trapping in the post and rotations that come out of it. They had a big room set up for us with video monitors so some guys illustrated their presentations with videos, which was very helpful. There was also a camera running the entire time while guys were talking, demonstrating or drawing on the board.

We went from about 11 in the morning until 10pm on the first night. Because we wanted to keep going we had lunch and dinner brought in – big trays of meatballs, sausage, pasta and salad. There were so many funny comments made during the course of the clinic – that’s part of the camaraderie that has developed over the years. Rollie and I are each other’s families. I’ve known Dick Versace for years. John Olive played for the Wildcats back when I was Rollie’s assistant so I got a chance to coach John back then. A shared history makes the group what it is.

It turned out to be a great basketball forum that hopefully will help those of us coaching this year win a couple extra games along the way.

Mike Looks Back: Villanova Then and Now

Prior to my NBA debut with Hubie Brown and the Hawks, I coached under Rollie Massimino at Villanova University from 1975-78. That was a period when Villanova turned it around and it was an exciting time in my career. We had some outstanding recruiting classes, which included the talented guard Rory Sparrow whom I would again coach at the NBA level in both Atlanta and New York. During my third season with the Wildcats we wound up the number one team in the Eastern Eight Conference. That year we made it to the NCAA Elite Eight after squeaking past Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers in the Sweet 16 round with a 61-60 victory, thanks in large part to Sparrow’s contributions on the court. Eventually we lost to the NCAA Tournament runners-up, the Duke Blue Devils, but we had a terrific run.

I have a lot of great memories from that chapter in my basketball career. And because of my rich experience and my relationships with coaches Rollie Massimino and Jay Wright, I’ve maintained ties to the program ever since. I remember the night Villanova upset heavily favored Georgetown to win the National Championship in 1985. I was a young head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. We were playing the Detroit Pistons at Joe Louis Arena that night. I found a cab driver before the game and paid him on the condition that he be waiting for me outside the arena when our game ended. As soon as we got finished with the press conference I raced back to the hotel to watch the game. The Wildcats were seeded eighth in their bracket and wound up defeating the No. 1 seeded Hoyas 66-64. What a night for Rollie – it was magical.

Photo by Elsa/Getty ImagesCoach Wright, who is in his ninth year as head coach, has developed the Wildcats into a top 25 fixture. Prior to joining Villanova, he was a successful head coach at Hofstra University and an assistant to Rollie at both Villanova and UNLV. While Villanova has had success in the past, most notably in 1985 when they captured the NCAA title, the basketball program is enjoying arguably its most prolonged period of success in its 81-year history. Last year, Villanova made its first Final Four appearance since the 1985 season when they lost to eventual National Champion North Carolina.

Coach Wright is a homegrown guy and follows in the footsteps of many other successful Big 5 coaches whose roots started in the Philadelphia area. He has shown a tremendous flair for recruiting, no doubt a result of his natural charisma and energy. Villanova now has a national recruiting pool from which to choose and looks poised to be a tough out in the NCAA tournament for years to come.

Wright’s teams are characterized by strong, tough guard play and an overall feistiness that allows them to compete effectively with bigger teams. The current team is no exception and is led by senior guard Scottie Reynolds, who hopes to bring his tremendous career at Villanova to an end with another deep tourney push. Villanova is also well-represented in the NBA right now with recent grads Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry and Dante Cunningham all contributing to their respective teams.

Villanova (2) will face St. Mary’s (10) in the second round of the 72nd Annual NCAA Championships this afternoon at 1:05 PM ET.