Was fortunate growing up.
Born into a household with a father who enjoyed sports, loved Philadelphia and had an open mind (for the most part), yours truly was never hamstrung by preconceived notions about how things were “supposed” to be or any hatred for individuals, teams and what have you that didn't happen to be from the favorite school.
Frankly, didn't have a favorite anyway ...
With that, it was – and is – all about Philly for me, when it comes to things with regard to Philly sports. If a team succeeds, even if it ain't from “my school,” don't care. Still happy to see it.
Never had any predetermined animosity, dislike, or disdain. None of it. That had to be earned.
Rollie Massimino never got there for me. So the R.I.P. wishes are genuine as we bid adieu to the former Villanova University men's basketball coach, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 82.
Yeah, Temple grad here. One well versed in just how awesome the Big Five truly was back in the day. Also one well aware of Rollie's heavy hand in turning it into a shell of what it had been during his time on the Main Line, with him seeing the area rivalries as nothing more than an obstacle to the Wildcats realizing their national prime-time potential.
But to focus on that and fail to acknowledge his greatness as a coach at Villanova would be silly at this point.
OK, got it. The guy was not everyone's cup of tea. His pasta-loving, Daddy Mass act could grow old and tiresome, or the tales about it could at least, and for all his disheveled madness on the sidelines, he did come across as an elitist, boorish snob at times, especially when it came to the Philly's beloved annual round-robin hoops affair.
Push come to shove, though, he produced some of the most memorable moments in Philly sports history – regardless of athletic endeavor or level of playing field.
For me, college basketball was never better than it was with the birth of the Big East, and 'Nova, with Rollie at the height of his magic-touch, X's and O's power, was right in the thick of it.
We all remember the national title capping the 1984-85 season. It was a wonderful experience for people in Philly, if they chose to embrace it. Yo, count me in.
That doesn't tell the whole story of his tenure in town, however.
Put it this way, the 'Cats were hardly the “out of the blue” program thrust into the spotlight that far too many would like to have you believe.
Not only were they NCAA Tournament qualifiers in six of the seven campaigns leading into that historic championship one, they reached the Elite Eight not once, not twice, but three times. Guess what ... they reached another one three years after upsetting Georgetown to win it all, too.
Rollie was the mastermind behind it all, utilizing all the talents at his disposal often in hard-to-comprehend fashion. It's how John Pinone bull-in-a-china-shopped his way to more than 2,000 points and 800 rebounds in his career while spearheading 'Nova to 89 wins, four NCAA appearances and two of those Elite Eights. It's also how low-scoring sophomore bench player Harold Jensen became a legendary figure in tournament folklore.
The frumpy little guy with the crazy antics knew exactly what he was doing in tapping into his resources at just the right time.
If he wasn't out-coaching the opposition, he was out-motivating them.
His ability to adapt, to go from fast to slow, from bully ball to finesse, was a true art ... and one rarely seen anymore.
He will be missed, but always remembered here ... and forever appreciated for the positive moments he provided Philly.