PhilaU's Magee set to eclipse Knight with 903 wins

PhilaU's Magee set to eclipse Knight with 903 wins

Published Feb. 22, 2010 10:53 p.m. ET

Herb Magee has always put comfort over style.

Take his attire for road games. Magee eschews designer labels for a black sweatsuit. Just a small Philadelphia University Basketball logo near the zipper of his shirt.

``Why should I wear a shirt and tie? That's uncomfortable to me,'' Magee said. ``On the road, when we get back on the bus, how can you be more comfortable than this?''

Comfort over style.


The Boston Celtics drafted Magee out of PhilaU (then known as Philadelphia Textile) with the 62nd pick of the 1963 draft. The Boston Garden. The parquet floor. The championship banners. The green leprechaun logo.

Magee simply told the Celtics, thanks, but no thanks.

He wanted to stay home - where he was comfortable.

``This place has always fit me,'' Magee said.

For years, Magee has put the Division II school on the basketball landscape as he passed one Hall of Fame coach after another on his way up the record book. The 68-year-old Magee has approached the biggest milestone of all: 903.

Magee is one victory from becoming the winningest coach in NCAA history. He is tied with former Army, Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight at 902 victories. Magee is 902-352 in 43 years at the Division II school and can surpass Knight (902-371) on Tuesday when the Rams play Goldey-Beacom College.

``I just want to coach, that's all,'' Magee said. ``But it's nice. It's good for the university and it's good for our team because they're getting coverage in the newspapers. To me, I'll be glad when we just get back to playing.''

Knight and Magee are tied on the career wins list for coaches who spent their entire career at NCAA schools. Northern State coach Don Meyer, who announced his retirement Monday, has 922 victories on the NAIA and NCAA level.

``I think it's remarkable no matter what level you do it on,'' Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.

Earlier this season, McKendree University coach Harry Statham notched his 1000th win at the NAIA powerhouse. The only other member of the 1,000-win club is Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt.

Magee will surely pass Meyer, hit 1,000 and keep on going. He has no plans to retire or pursue any other coaching job at any other level. When he's done, he will call it a career at the 3,500-student private school he has called home for 50 years.

``Who knows where the number's going to end up?'' Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. ``But that's just a number. It's the way he's done it.''

Magee ended his playing career at Philadelphia Textile as the school's leading scorer with 2,235 points. He averaged 29.1 points one season and was a two-time small-college All-America selection.

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.

Magee took a job as an assistant varsity coach and the junior varsity coach. He also coached the school's cross country team, golf team, taught phys ed, heck, he even ran intramurals.

``Now, I'm just a basketball coach, which I really enjoy,'' he said.

He's also earned a reputation as the ``Shot Doctor.''

Magee never jumped ship for a big college program or an NBA assistant job - he says he's passed up strong offers at both levels - but he's still made an impact in the pros, privately instructing NBA players. He'll tell any hoops fan how no one can make jump shots as aesthetically pleasing or as perfect like he can. He's run shooting camps in the summers for decades and is a frequent guest for some of his favorite coaches.

And who taught the ``Shot Doc'' how to shoot?

``Myself,'' he said.

He used to watch the Philadelphia Warriors at Convention Hall and would emulate the top shooters of the time, like Bob Cousy or Paul Arizin.

``I just practiced, that's all,'' he said. ``There was no such thing as camps. There was no such thing as DVDs or film. I just took it upon myself to learn how to shoot the ball properly.

``How can I teach you to shoot if I can't shoot myself?''

He's passed on his knowledge for five decades to the Rams. He reached the pinnacle in 1970 when they won his only national championship. The Rams won 28 straight games that season and beat Tennessee State in the title game.

Magee would love to hear from Knight once the record is broken. They met once at a coaching clinic 25 years ago, and Knight recorded a complimentary video of Magee that's posted on his Web site.

``Everyone in the world is aware who Bobby Knight is,'' Magee said. ``Bobby Knight is aware of who I am. That's a compliment for me.''