Tag Archives: Rollie Massimino

Farewell, Rollie Massimino

When news broke that Rollie Massimino died, the basketball world was understandably heartbroken. The passing of the famed head coach who led Villanova to the NCAA title in 1985 came on the heels of the death of another coaching legend, Michigan State’s Jud Heathcote.

To be sure the Wildcat faithful and the fans at Keiser University, the NAIA school where Massimino spent his final years coaching, have naturally paid their respects. And so, too, have those who remember Massimino’s tenure at Cleveland State, where he was head coach from 1996 to 2003.

And rather than dwell on his final two seasons with the Vikings, which ultimately led to him stepping down, I’d much rather hearken back to 1996, when Massimino was hired to take over a Cleveland State squad that had languished under the final season of Mike Boyd, both in the win-loss column and in the stands.

Here’s a snippet of what I had written that May after he hosted a Select-Your-Seat night at the Wolstein Center (then the Convocation Center):

The Cleveland State basketball team hasn’t played a single game yet under new head coach Rollie Massimino. and yet, they have finally stepped into the big time.

It made no sense to me at first how one small head coaching change could vault the Vikings’ sad hoops team into national recognition. But in one fell swoop, it has.

The name and the energy of Massimino has brought CSU to the limelight. Why? Because Massimino has something that no coach in a 250-mile radius, including Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins has, a Division I basketball championship ring.

Now, to the uninterested person on the street, that wouldn’t even get a dull roar. But for the basketball-hungry fans of CSU, or basketball fans in general, it means everything.

While the Massimino’s debut campaign in 1996-97 showed a modest improvement in terms of wins and losses for the Vikings, he did, however, provide enough starpower to get the likes of Georgetown and Michigan to come to Cleveland. And CSU also notched a surprised win against Detroit Mercy in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament that years as well.

Even long after his departure from Cleveland State, Massimino’s influence could be felt at all levels of the basketball coaching ranks. In fact, at least four the players on that 1996-97 squad, Derrick Ziegler, Dean Rahas and Malcolm Sims, all currently coach at the high school level.

Of course, there’s the well-heralded Massimino coaching tree in college, that includes, among others, Villanova’s Jay Wright and recently-hired Youngstown State head coach (and former CSU manager and player) Jerrod Calhoun.

And that influence will be more of Massimino’s legacy than anything else. Despite the 90-113 record at Cleveland State, there was never any shortage of that contagious enthusiasm he brought on the sidelines for every game. And what seems like a bygone era in which high-major schools shied away from traveling to mid-majors, Massimino delivered, from his first year bringing in the Hoyas and Wolverines and all throughout his tenure, hosting, among others, Cal and Florida State.

When I first heard about Massimino’s death, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to write this column that would inevitably going to happen. As it’s been well-chronicled, my role in the latter years of the Massimino era at Cleveland State was that of an enemy combatant, to be honest.

But, like all things, the passage of time makes us all think of the good more than the not-so-good. And that’s truly why when I sit back and remember Massimino, I think back more than anything to the man who openly embraced the college kid trying to make his way as a sports writer.

Good-bye, Coach Mass. I, like so many others, will miss you.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Will Cleveland State’s Student Outreach Pay Off?

You had a feeling that at some point in time, somebody from Cleveland State was going to stand up and take notice of the fact that nobody was going to men’s basketball games.

It’s also not hard to imagine that the partnership with the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena isn’t going as planned, as the number of Viking games at the Q went down from five to two. With single-game tickets now on sale, and with all Horizon League games at the Wolstein Center, it appears that the folks at Quicken Loans Arena have opted to minimize the financial damage of low attendance.

Lack of support from the community isn’t exactly a new problem for Cleveland State. Multiple attempts over the years to market the team through television and radio advertising has netted few returns as it relates to overall attendance. CSU clearly hoped that the partnership with the Cavs would alleviate that somewhat, to no avail.

Sad to say, but Cleveland State fell victim to a multitude of circumstances that can only partially be blamed on last season’s abysmal 9-23 record. The Vikings, both men and women, also had to contend with, among other things, the Cavs and the now Cleveland Monsters, whose own success in the form of winning the AHL’s Calder Cup trophy preceded the monumental Cavaliers victory.

And while the Indians, with their outstanding run to the World Series, may not have directly affected CSU’s prospects, the fact that money that potentially could have been thrown the Vikings’ way likely went that way.

So given that the already uphill climb to attract the community to Cleveland State sporting events has been made even steeper, the school had to go in another direction. And as it turns out, it looks as if it’s putting more focus on the one steady source of revenue: Students.

Now, this effort to reach out to students, whose fees currently account for nearly 89 percent of the entire Athletics budget, has been in fits and starts for more than two decades. It started with Rollie Massimino reaching out, then later, the creation of the Beserkers fan section and its subsequent predecessor, Viking Village.

In that vein, Athletics, through its staff and its athletes, have rebooted those efforts. Basketball players have been visible at a variety of student events, from Homecoming Week to passing out Halloween candy during the men’s lacrosse team’s debut exhibition match against Bellarmine. Coach Gary Waters was spotted in the front row of a volleyball game.

Most importantly, though, has been the string of meetings between Waters, the Athletics staff and members of the student body. Though this approach isn’t new (Massimino gathered student leaders when he first arrive in 1996), it appears that Cleveland State is making a more concerted effort to get students more involved, particularly in men’s basketball.

And it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. With entertainment dollars being stretched all over the place as it stands, CSU would do well to plan for the future. After all, as any big university will tell you, there’s a good chance that students who become fans will eventually spend more money after they graduate (read: season tickets).

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Athletics