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Massimino weaves tight-knit feelings into Villanova basketball

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Rollie Massimino says his approach to coaching basketball has remained the same for three decades. The only difference is that his Villanova University Wildcats are going to launch the 1985-86 season as defending national champions, thanks to last spring's dramatic upset victory over Georgetown. The three seniors who formed the nucleus of that team have graduated, but the relationship that bonded coach to player continues, just as it does with most all of Rollie's former pupils.

Speaking of how he perceives his job, the roundish coach says, ``This is not a four-year commitment; it's a 40-year commitment. At least that's how I analyze it. Being a head coach is an ever-going process of making sure everyone is settled.''

In some cases this commitment to players may mean opening doors to a life after basketball. Other times it may call for him to pave the way to a pro career in the game, as it did with two of last season's senior starters -- Ed Pinckney and Dwayne McClain. Rollie personally interviewed the dozen agents interested in representing Pinckney and McClain, who were first- and second-round National Basketball Association draft choices respectively.

He likes to keep the communication lines open with all his players, past and present. The current ones constantly funnel into his office in the aging Villanova Field House, where his quarters are jammed with the bric-a-brac of a career coach -- team pictures, plaques, trophies, lettered basketballs, and other assorted memorabilia.

The welcome mat is always out for former players, too, even those from many years earlier. In fact, after a testimonial dinner last spring, Massimino invited all his former high school prot'eg'es to a cookout at his place.

The togetherness that Massimino builds into his basketball program is one of the hallmarks of this accomplished motivator.

``We've always had great chemistry on our teams and sometimes that gives us an edge when we're playing,'' says assistant coach Marty Marbach.

This chemistry, of course, doesn't just happen. Rollie and his staff work hard to make sure the right people fill Villanova's blue and white uniforms. ``The big thing is I don't want unhappy people,'' he says.


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