Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dom Rosselli: A coaching legend and a good person

The name Dom Rosselli may not ring a bell to many sports folks, but to those in the Mahoning Valley of Youngstown, Ohio and true sports historians, Rosselli was a coaching legend...he served as head basketball and baseball coach at Youngstown State University and combined to win over 1,000 games...he coached former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher Dave Dravecky...

On a personal note, back in 1990, I had the opportunity to interview Rosselli when I was the sports editor of the school newspaper, The Jambar...Rosselli was probably the most pleasant interview I ever conducted...he was not some cranky, old person who was mad at the that time he was 75-years-old and for two hours he told some great stories and fed me pizza...

I can remember him saying that he only did 1 resume in his lifetime, and it was for a job at YSU...he said he was fortunate to have a good job at a place like YSU, so he had no reason to leave...

Rosselli always wanted to help people...just a few years ago our paths crossed again...he was looking to help someone who was less fortunate...the person needed a new toilet and he was wanting to know if there was anyone who could do it for free...he said he would have done it himself if he was just a few years younger...

Rosselli was a good-soul...they don't make them like Dom Rosselli anymore...I can say it was an honor to know him...he was a truly nice man who got up every Friday and made pizzas at St. Anthony's...this year, the pizzas at St. A's will not be the same...

God Bless Dom Rosselli...

Below is the official release from the YSU Athletic Department...

The Youngstown State Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is deeply saddened to announce the passing of former men's basketball and baseball head coach Dom Rosselli, who died at the age of 93 Tuesday morning, Oct. 7, 2008.

The school's winningest basketball and baseball coach, Rosselli guided Youngstown State's basketball and baseball teams for 38 and 31 years, respectively. Rosselli accumulated more than 1,000 career victories for the Red and White. He also served as an assistant football coach for 21 seasons.

“Dom Rosselli was one of the true champions of YSU, not only on the basketball court, the baseball diamond and the football field, but across the university and the Mahoning Valley," YSU President Dr. David Sweet said. "Though he was small in stature, he was a giant in YSU athletics and a role model for us all – students, faculty and staff. His enthusiasm for the university was relentless. His contributions to the university were innumerable. And his memory will live forever. My most heartfelt sympathies go to his family. He will be missed.”

"Coach Rosselli's sense of humor and unmatched love for YSU will be greatly missed," Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Ron Strollo said. "The thoughts of the entire YSU athletics department are with the Rosselli family.

"An amazing number of former student-athletes had stayed in contact with him through the years, which is a testament of the true character of Coach Rosselli."

Born March 19, 1915, in Youngstown, Ohio, Rosselli was a fixture on the basketball bench from 1940 to 1982. He nurtured a program from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to NCAA Division II and then to Division I. He was also instrumental in Youngstown State's rise as an independent to conference play, first in the original Mid-Continent Conference on the Division II level and the Ohio Valley Conference in Division I.

In his 38 years, Rosselli compiled a career record of 589-388 for a .604 winning percentage. He led his teams to eight 20-win seasons, including a 24-3 mark with an .889 winning percentage in 1963-64. Both are still school records for most wins and highest winning percentage in a season.

During the 1956-57 season, Rosselli guided the Penguins to a 23-4 mark and an appearance in the NAIA Quarterfinals as the Penguins lost to Southeastern Oklahoma, 69-65. The following season Youngstown State finished 23-7 and advanced to the third round of the NAIA National Tournament before losing to Western Illinois, 70-67. For the third time in as many seasons, Rosselli and the Penguins made an appearance in the NAIA National Tournament after a 19-9 mark in 1958-59. YSU defeated Baldwin Wallace, 97-77, in the championship game of the NAIA Ohio District and Northern (S.D.) State, 85-76, in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament. In the second round, the Penguins lost to Tennessee A&I State, 89-80.

He coached the Penguins for two seasons before World War II duty as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force took him off the court and overseas.

Upon his return from the war, Rosselli was very involved in YSU athletics. Rosselli resumed full-time duty on the basketball court as soon as he returned.

He was an assistant coach on the football team before the war, and when he came home in 1946, he remained at his assistant’s position until 1963. He created the Penguin baseball program and was the coach from 1948-50 until it was discontinued. In 1958, he resurrected the Penguin baseball team and for the next 28 years was a fixture in the dugout.

In the spring of 1948, Rosselli became the first baseball coach in Youngstown State history and accumulated a 31-year career record of 489-316-1 for a .607 winning percentage. In 1958 and Rosselli led the Penguins to an 11-6 record and the NAIA District 22 championship. YSU repeated as district champions in 1959 with a 10-6 mark. In 1964 and 1966, YSU appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

From 1969 to 1977, Rosselli led the Penguins to nine consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 26-8 record and an appearance in the NCAA Division II Regionals in 1977. During that nine-year span, the Penguins amassed a record of 199-101 for a winning percentage of .663. In 1979, Rosselli recorded his 10th 20-win season with a 21-5 mark and collected his 11th and final 20-win campaign in 1982 with a 23-14 record.
Rosselli guided former major league pitcher and YSU Hall of Famer Dave Dravecky to a four-year career record of 21-7, including a 7-1 mark in 1977, and a career earned run average of 1.85.

His winning coaching ledger is a distant second to the person known as "Coach", someone who ate and slept Youngstown State athletics and always had time for anyone who requested to meet with him.

A graduate of Rayen High School, Rosselli attended Geneva College and started in three sports. Rosselli led Geneva to a football victory over Youngstown College in 1938, YSU's first season of football. Upon graduation in 1939, Rosselli earned a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and began his well-documented coaching career at Youngstown State. He began as an assistant football coach to the legendary late Dwight “Dike” Beede and assistant basketball coach to Ray Sweeney before taking over the reigns of the cage program in 1940-41.

His many coaching honors include the NCAA’s District IV Coach of the Year, Ohio’s College Coach of the Year, both in 1957 and 1964, and the Italian Coach of the Year.
Rosselli was named to the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame in 1978 and was named to the charter class of the Youngstown State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985. He was also named the Penguin of the Year in 1999.

He is survived by his wife, Connie, four children and several grandchildren.

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