Philly U Hall of Fame coach Magee set to join 1,000-win club
Feb. 02, 2015
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Make room in the 1,000-win club, Coach K.
Herb Magee is about to join some rarified air among coaching milestones, achieved without the national spotlight, a seven-figure salary or a designer suit for gameday.
Just nine days after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski earned his 1,000th career win, Magee can hit the same mark for Division II Philadelphia University.
Magee is a Philly U lifer. The 73-year-old Magee has earned every victory at tiny Philadelphia U and has become a local hoops icon and a Naismith Hall of Fame coach in a city with deep basketball roots. He set the school's scoring record (then known as Philadelphia Textile), bypassed a shot with the Boston Celtics to take a job at the school as an assistant, then became head coach in 1967.
He led the program to a national championship in 1970.
Against Wilmington on Tuesday, he could become the second coach in NCAA men's basketball history with 1,000 wins.
"We're not Duke," Magee said, "but we appear on everyone's schedule as one of the most formidable opponents. Now, I'm not comparing my school to Duke, but everything's relative."
Magee leaves a giant imprint on the game every few seasons when he records another 100 wins or passes or coaching giant in the record book. Magee's 903rd win in 2010 helped him pass former Indiana coach Bobby Knight and become — for a short time — the winningest men's coach in NCAA history.
Magee and Knight met once at a coaching clinic 25 years ago, and Knight recorded a complimentary video of Magee that's posted on his website. Magee has yet to meet Krzyzewski.
"I know who he is. He might know who I am," Magee said. "But I've never even shaken his hand."
Krzyzewski, who has four NCAA tournament titles, makes more than $9 million per year.
Magee might not have made that much over decades at Philly U. But he wouldn't change his career, even if he could. The local legend interviewed for other jobs, including at Villanova, in the 1970s.
"I certainly could have made a lot of more money," Magee said. "But I always felt Philadelphia is where I wanted to stay, where I wanted to live, where I wanted to do all the things I wanted to do. I never gave it too much thought."
Magee played at West Catholic High School with future coaches Jim Lynam (76ers) and Jim Boyle (Saint Joseph's) and ended his career at Philadelphia Textile (before it changed its name) as the school's leading scorer with 2,235 points. He averaged 29.1 points one season and was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1963.
Imagine this in 2015: Magee actually passed on a chance to play for the Celtics. He broke two fingers on his left hand that summer and felt he couldn't crack a roster stocked with future Hall of Famers.
So he stayed home and built a D-II powerhouse.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers, who starred at Philly U in the early 1990s, said Magee was one of the all-time great characters in the game.
"When the 'in' thing was to leave and go D-1, get a high-major job, chase the money, chase fame, he's on buses, he's on vans," Chambers said. "Everybody else is on private planes and charters."
Magee earned win No. 1 in his first game as coach with a 62-50 victory over Trenton State (now, The College of New Jersey) on Dec. 1, 1967. Magee would have only one losing season and built his career with regular 20-win seasons and NCAA tournament appearances.
On the brink of 1,000, he insisted the chase — and the media swarm that always slams Magee as he nears milestones — would not become a distraction for the Rams.
Late last month, Magee posed a locker room question to senior guard Nick Schlitzer.
"Do you think I'm a good enough coach to win three more games before I retire," he asked.
Schlitzer laughed and told Magee he had a pretty good chance.
"We started laughing together," Magee said. "I said, 'Fellas, that's what it means. It doesn't mean anything.'"
But the wins and his legacy matter to the players he helped shape in nearly 50 years of coaching. Magee forged a reputation as the "Shot Doc," tutoring pros like Charles Barkley, Jameer Nelson and Evan Turner. Even today, Magee says he has perfect shooting form. He used to take 500 shots a day and would chart misses to figure out what he did wrong.
With an enthusiasm for the game that has yet to dip, he's the coach Philly U can count on to lead the Rams for years ahead.
"When you come to play here, you know who the coach is," he said. "You know he's played there, he's been there, and the kids automatically know we know what we're doing. You get that immediate respect. You don't have to prove anything to anybody. It's already there."