1,000th win escapes Philadelphia U. coach Herb Magee

Philadelphia University basketball head coach Herb Magee remains one short of a milestone 1,000 wins, but he’s not one to dwell.  

“[Milestones] are actually really annoying to me,” said Magee, 73. “It takes away from the emphasis on the team and puts too much emphasis on me.” 

The Philadelphia University Rams fell to the Wilmington Wildcats 72-70 Tuesday night in a packed Gallagher Athletic Center full of spectators — including former Gov. Ed Rendell — expecting a historic win from the NCAA Division II coach.

Head coach of the Rams for 48 seasons, Magee needs one more win to join the elusive NCAA 1,000th-win club. Duke University head coach Mike Kryzyzewski is the sole member.

Kryzyzewski secured his 1,000th win on Jan. 25 in a game against St. John’s University at Madison Square Garden, but not before Magee came close to making it to the record win first.

Tuesday night’s game

The Rams picked up the pace after a losing first half, seemingly securing a win with a 9-point lead. Wilmington then came back to take the lead in the last three minutes after sophomore Tyaire Ponzo-Meek sunk in a 3-point shot. Down 72-70, all eyes watched as Philadelphia University senior Nick Schlitzer shot — and missed — a 3-point jump shot right before the final buzzer ending the game.

But do not expect Magee to blame Schlitzer.

“The look we got at the end of the game is exactly what we wanted — an open three for our best shooter,” Magee said of Schlitzer’s missed jump shot. “It’s going to hurt the kid because he missed, but that’s not his fault.”

The Rams face off on their home turf against Post University on Saturday when spectators will once again gather expecting a milestone win from Magee.

A career of milestones

Magee is no stranger to milestones. In 2010, he was first to pass Bobby Knight’s record of 903 NCAA wins. Kryzyzewski followed shortly after in 2011. Magee and Kyrzyzewski have been neck-and-neck in racking up total NCAA wins since 2013, with Magee wrapping up the 2014 two wins ahead. Magee also became the NCAA Division II men’s basketball coach with the most wins in 2007 when the Rams secured a win against the same team they lost to on Tuesday night.

After graduating in 1963 from Philadelphia University as a two-time All-American selection with a record-breaking 2,235 career points, Magee hopped on as coach despite being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Prior to being inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Magee spoke to NewsWorks in 2011 about his love of the game.

“You don’t start off as a youngster playing basketball in West Philly thinking about going into the Hall of Fame,” said Magee, who spent his high school career playing for West Catholic High School. “What you do is stand out because you love the game of basketball.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.