Herb Magee’s 1,000 wins: nearly half a century in the making

Charles Mostoller, Staff

Move over Coach K. You finally have company in the neighborhood.

And what an exclusive neighborhood it is.

It took two tries, but with Saturday’s 80-60 victory over Post, Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee joined Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski — whom he’s never met even though both have already been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame — as charter members of the 1,000 win club among men’s NCAA coaches. Former Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt has also done it.

Yet while those around him revel in the milestone, the 73-year-old Magee has other things on his mind. Namely Tuesday’s game at Chestnut Hill, which he hopes will help springboard the Rams onto the NCAA tournament. He’s just glad the “Herb Scores 1000’’ countdown banner hanging in Gallagher Athletic Center is finally down to zero and he can say goodbye to all the fanfare.

“It’s a feeling of relief, mainly, because that thing’s been hanging up there the whole year,’’ laughed Magee, whose been on this same campus since arriving as a freshman in 1959. “It started at 15. It’s been a tough situation because the hype is there and everyone is pulling for us as a team but they’re really pulling for me to get 1,000 wins because they know how important it is.But our guys have responded. We were 3-4 at one time. Now we’re 15-6.”

Credit the man known as the “shot doctor’’ who held the school scoring record for ages (2,235 points in the pre 3-point era).

“I’d heard the name, knew his win total, but hardly knew anything about him,’’ said 6-foot-11 center Peter Alexis. “but he’s a great coach. He’s taught me a lot these past three years. It’s been a little distracting at practice at times, with all the camera crews coming in. We were supposed to keep this out of our heads, but it was hard.”

That was evident in their 72-70 near miss for 1000 against Wilmington last Tuesday, where Nick Schlitzer’s three-ball to win it at the buzzer spilled out. Magee admits time almost stood still the next few days leading up to Saturday, where the Rams promptly dug an early 22-11 hole, before turning it on to win going away.And start the celebration for the man who says he won’t really reflect on all this until after the season.

The three-ball is just one of the things that’s changed since the then 25-year-old assistant Magee took the reins from mentor Bucky Harris in 1967, winning the NCAA Division II championship three years later. Overall, having taken the Rams to 27 tournaments, 11 Regional Finals, with 11 25-win seasons, it’s been “grand.”

“I think the kids are a little different,” said Magee, who will likely eventually be joined in the 1,000 club by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (963). “They don’t come from high school coaching, but AAU ball.Once you get them they really don’t know how to play and you have to teach them. The game’s changed because of the shot clock and the 3-point line, but it’s still a game to be played unselfishly and defensively.Once your players can do those two things you’re gonna win games.”

For Philadelphia University’s Hall of Famer Herb Magee it’s a formula that’s worked a thousand times.

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