KEN McMILLAN: Magarity savored good stories, good eats with Rollie Massimino

The knock on his hotel room door came at 1 in the morning. Dave Magarity was stirred from his sleep to find Pete Gillen begging his friend to watch some game film with Rollie Massimino.
“Dave, Dave, Rollie wants you to come down to the room,’’ Gillen said excitedly. It didn’t seem to matter that Massimino’s Villanova team had just beaten Magarity’s Saint Francis (Pa.) squad only hours earlier in the Dec. 1979 Kodak Classic tournament in Rochester. Gillen was a Villanova assistant, and his boss wanted to gain an edge on his next opponent.
“We’re watching film of Syracuse,’’ Gillen said, well aware that Saint Francis had given the Orange a good game a few weeks earlier.
Magarity, currently Army’s women’s basketball coach since 2006, was a young coach back then so he wiped the sleep from his eyes, explained to his wife that he had some basketball work to do and used the bribe of late-night eats to join Massimino’s court session.
“He’s like, ‘What did you do here? How did you defend this?’’’ Magarity recalled. All the while, the coaches are feasting on a full-course Italian meal pre-ordered and midnight delivered from a local restaurant.
“I couldn’t get out of the room. He’s feeding me, more food than you could imagine,’’ said Magarity, who was never one to push away a plate of spaghetti after midnight. When he finally returned to his hotel room, Magarity had to convince his wife, Rita, that he had not gone out clubbing with the coaches.
Food seemed to be always at the heart – or stomach – of stories about Massimino, who died at age 82 on Wednesday in Florida. Massimino hailed from Long Island but he was part of the Philadelphia basketball circles since he coached at Penn under Chuck Daly and then at Villanova from 1973-92 and brought the Wildcats a national championship with that memorable 1985 win over heavily favored Georgetown. Magarity is a Philly guy so he’s part of that club, too.
“Rollie was a unique guy,’’ Magarity said Wednesday. “He was one of a kind, there’s no question about that. He had a tremendous personality and was funny as heck.’’
While he gained fame and acclaim with the national championship, Massimino was basically the same guy years before the 1985 title season, Magarity said.
“He was a terrific coach and a great recruiter,’’ Magarity said.
The recruiting trails is where Magarity would always see him. Massimino was coaching at UNLV and Magarity at Marist when they ran into one another at a summer camp at Fairleigh Dickinson. Massimino grabbed Magarity’s arm and said, ‘C’mon, we’re going to dinner.’’ Magarity put up a minor protest, saying he was there to watch a couple kids, but the strength of Massimino’s personality and the promise of a good Italian meal was too good to pass. Sure enough, they found a nearby restaurant with two pictures of Massimino adorning the walls.
“The food was unbelievable,’’ Magarity said. “Rollie said, ‘We’ll get you back (to the camp),’ but three hours later we’re still eating.’’
With Massimino, scouting good eats was always easier, and more entertaining, than scouting the next power forward.
“Those will always be my memories,’’ Magarity said. “It’s sad that he’s gone. He is an icon.’’
Twitter: @KenMcMillanTHR

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