SI.COM: PHILAU'S MAGEE WINS 899TH GAME
Appeared on SI.com on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Herb Magee has career win No. 900 in sight. Once that magic number is hit, the Division II coaching lifer has one more major milestone to reach - passing Hall of Famer Bobby Knight on the NCAA career wins list.
Magee, who has coached Philadelphia University for 43 years, won his 899th game when the Division II Rams beat Holy Family 71-59 on Friday. Magee can get No. 900 when the Rams (19-6, 11-1 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference) play Bloomfield College on Saturday.
"I don't want to treat it irreverently, but when the season started, I figured we'd win that many games to get to 900 because I've got a good team,'' Magee said.
Knight won 902 games and three national championships in a 42-year career with Army, Indiana and Texas Tech. Knight and Magee are 1-2 in the career wins list for coaches who spent their entire career at the NCAA level. Northern State coach Don Meyer has 921 victories between the NAIA and NCAA.
"It's not something you set out to do as a coach,'' Magee said. "It just happens.''
The 68-year-old Magee has earned every victory at tiny Philadelphia University and has become a local hoops icon 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 as an assistant, then became head coach in 1967.
He led the program to a national championship in 1970.
Magee, who coaches road games in black sweats and a black sweatshirt, has no plan of slowing down his pursuit of more round numbers. Magee expects to coach long enough to reach 1,000 wins and beyond.
"He just makes it simple for you,'' forward Malcolm Ingram said. "When you go out there, you know what he wants and what he wants you to do.''
Ingram scored 21 points on 10 of 19 shooting Friday - the kind of percentage that made the coach commonly known as the "Shot Doctor'' proud. Magee built a reputation as a shooting guru with a soft touch, tutoring pros like Charles Barkley, Jameer Nelson and Malik Rose. Even today, Magee says he has perfect shooting form. He used to take 500 shots a day and would chart the misses to figure out what he did wrong.
He speaks at clinics and camps about only one thing: the art of the shot.
"I don't talk about anything else, just shooting,'' he said.
Magee's shooting skills - and steady 20-win seasons - made him a hot commodity among his peers in the D-I and NBA ranks. He's been offered, persuaded and approached about bolting the Rams, but never felt seriously driven to leave.
"I had other opportunities, but they all involved leaving the city where my family and friends are, where my comfort level is,'' he said. "I've always felt that coaching is coaching. It doesn't matter what level you're on. I enjoy that part of it. If I had taken another job in the NBA, who knows if I'd been as successful.''
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 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.
He passed on Boston's offer for two reasons. He broke two fingers on his left hand that summer, a big blow for a shooter, and he felt he couldn't crack a Celtics roster that was stocked with future Hall of Famers.
So he stayed home and built a D-II powerhouse. Counting his time as a player, Magee has spent 50 years at the school.
"I never left,'' he said. "If there's a legacy, that's what it is.''
Magee would like to reconnect with Knight once the record is broken. The two met once at a coaching clinic 25 years ago. (Knight declined a request for an interview). The Rams, who are on a 10-game winning streak, have five regular season games left before the NCAA tournament.
Win No. 903 is a mere formality.
"I want to dump the Gatorade on him,'' Ingram said. "He's earned it.''