Steve Rossignoli was the closest thing Reading/Berks had to Larry Bird. Oh, you could argue that Chris Finch belongs on that short list, and he probably does. But “Stevie Roz” did it all a little bit before “Finchy.”
Roz was a fierce competitor, a tenacious rebounder, and, quite frankly, was the best player in Reading, PA during the mid-80s, after his graduation from Mount St. Mary’s, where he carved out a historic collegiate career. He owned 11th and Pike, which was the pre-eminent summer league at that time. Sorry, Mr. Kuhn, the West Reading Summer League played second fiddle to the Pike in those early years.
Though Roz would take a hard-right turn, politically, later in life, never forget that he was a lefty first!
Roz was all of 6-foot-5 with a feathery touch from the perimeter, and an ability to post up any non-power forward who dared to guard him down there. He was tough and nasty, and he wasn’t afraid to hold teammates accountable. His pedigree and fundamentally sound game was borne out of playing for two absolutely phenomenal and legendary coaches: Jim Gano and Jim Phelan. An unbelievable one-two, coaching punch.
And, boy, could he pass! Roz was one of those players who the game slowed down for. He played at his own pace, and few defenses could take him out of his game. I watched Roz for years and never saw anyone who could stop him. The closest anyone came to shutting down Roz was Robert Steinmetz sr. and a cadre of Berks County officials who just didn’t get his passion and intensity and language.
Roz still holds the Reading/Berks all-time record for technical fouls in summer league, a Rasheed Wallace-like total that will never be matched. But this mark comes with an asterisk. Roz had the misfortune of playing at a time when my dad went through a little “born again” period, and he was dishing out T’s left and right. Pop’s philosophy at the time was simple: he would T-up anyone who used profanity, even if it was self-directed. “There are kids at this playground,” my dad would say, “and they don’t need to hear those words.”
Almost 40 years later, I’m making it official: Roz got a bad whistle at times from my dad. Just don’t tell my dad I said it.
So here’s to “Stevie Roz,” one of the greatest players and competitors Reading/Berks has ever seen!