Minutes after reaching a milestone in his basketball coaching career, Herb Magee stood on the retired court where he started at the university more than 50 years earlier.
Magee had just won his 1,000th game as head coach at Philadelphia University — a feat that only one other coach has ever reached in NCAA men’s basketball history.
“You know, I like this place,” Magee said on Saturday in the Bucky Harris Gym, the basketball team’s former home court. “We used to play in this place and it would be packed…so it’s always had a real special meaning for me.”
He had just come from the team’s current court down the hallway of the Gallagher Athletic Center, where a sold-out crowd of 1,366 people — including former Gov. Ed Rendell — gathered to watch Magee’s team dominate Post University in an 80-60 game.
Despite an early deficit of 11 points, the Philadelphia University Rams gained the lead by the end of the half, which they built on in the second half, at one point leading by as much as 29 points.
With about a minute and a half left in the game, the crowd chanted his name in celebration of the imminent 1,000th win. Magee said his feelings at the moment were of relief.
“It’s been a tough situation because the hype is there,” he said.
There was certainly no shortage of hype for the event.
A countdown to the historic win was marked on a banner hanging in the gym and a line of students in the stands painted their chests to spell out “#Magee1K!” referring to the twitter hashtag for the event.
“At the beginning of the year, when they put that banner up there with the numbers on it… that’s a reminder. But I never really thought about it until just now,” Magee said. “One thousand wins, that’s a lot, you know?”
The Rams had an opportunity to achieve the 1,000th win at home earlier this month but narrowly lost 72-70 to the Wilmington University Wildcats. The only other men’s basketball coach to achieve the milestone, Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski, secured it in win against St. John’s University last month.
A long road
Magee played for the NCAA Division II Rams in the early 1960s and set a then-school record of 2,235 career points. Despite being drafted into the NBA after graduation, Magee chose to return to his alma mater as an assistant coach.
Four years later, he became the head coach and has since received numerous honors including being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Three years ago, any part of my ego that wasn’t satisfied, it was satisfied, when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Magee said. “[The 1,000th win] was a tremendous team goal…There’s two things right there that I’m very proud of.”