College Basketball Nation: Herb Magee

The all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history had big plans for the night he stepped into the record books.

“I’m going to make my wife stay up and tell me how great I am,’’ Herb Magee said as he drove home. “She’ll be begging me to let her go to sleep.’’

That’s vintage Magee: wise-cracking and understated to the core.

[+] EnlargeHerb Magee
AP Photo/Michael PerezPhiladelphia University coach Herb Magee greets fans after beating Goldey-Beacom College on Tuesday, giving him 903 wins.
When his Philadelphia University team topped Goldey-Beacom, 76-65 on Tuesday night, nudging Magee past Bob Knight with win No. 903, he officially became the most successful men's coach in NCAA basketball history.

He’s long been the happiest.

Magee came to Philly U. as a student 50 years ago (when it was Philadelphia Textile) and never left. Never tilted at a windmill, never sniffed out greener pastures.

Opportunities came, and Magee, the head coach since 1967, considered every one.

“Nothing ever seemed better to me,’’ Magee said. “And every year when I go to the coaches’ convention, everyone tells me the same thing – ‘you did the right thing.’ They know I’m a pretty happy guy. I’ve got a good life.’’

Magee could care less about how many games he’s won, how many NCAA tournaments he's been in (24) or how many national championships (one). He’d rather tell you about the guys he coached or who split the $7,000 as his assistants and went on to become head coaches in their own right – Billy Lange at Navy, Steve Donahue at Cornell, Pat Chambers at Boston University, Sean Kearney at Holy Corss and Chuck Hammond at Goldey-Beacom, his foe for win No. 903, who was Magee’s manager for four years.

He fretted this game against Goldney-Beacom, not because he wanted the record, but because he wanted to put the attention to bed. Temple coach Fran Dunphy was in the house. Villanova coach Jay Wright stopped by, too.

“I knew all the reporters and TV guys would be here,’’ he said. “If you lose, we play again on Saturday but those people aren’t all coming back. Press conferences don’t usually happen at Philadelphia University.’’

Perhaps there ought to be one more.

For reasons that remain as inexplicably mysterious as the process itself, Magee hasn’t been invited to the Hall of Fame.

A revered shot doctor as well as a coach (he once tried to teach Charles Barkley how to shoot free throws. If that doesn’t merit a call to the Hall, what does?), Magee’s success lies in his loyalty as much as his victories. In a fickle business, Magee has remained true: true to his school, true to his players and true to the integrity of the game.

And now he has the marker to set him apart. Northern State’s Don Meyer technically has more victories, with 922, but some of his came at the NAIA level. Magee, like Knight, spent his entire career at an NCAA university.

Besides that minor distinction won’t last long. Meyer announced this week that he will retire at season’s end.


He’s going to chug along for No. 904 on Saturday and has no plans on quitting anytime soon. Is 1,000 in the cards?

“I’m not going any place, so why not?’’ he said. “I might as well keep going. It sure beats the alternative.’’
  • Bob Huggins was not pleased with the officiating in Monday night's loss to Connecticut, so much so that he earned himself an ejection in the final minute -- one of those "I'm sick of this, I'm getting kicked out, which ref do I insult first" coach's decisions you see from time to time. After the game, though, Huggins was less direct: "You saw it. You're allowed to report on it. I'm not," Huggins said when asked about the effect of 46 fouls and 65 free throws -- 42 of them by UConn -- on the way the game played out. "That's a tremendous advantage."
  • Northern State coach Don Meyer announced Monday that he will retire after the current season is over. Meyer is the NCAA's all-time wins leader in college basketball for all divisions, followed by former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight and current Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. Magee plans to stick around a little while longer; Jameson Fleming at the Bleacher Report picked Magee's brain and found out why.
  • Did BracketBusters work? And just what does "work" mean? The Dagger's Jeff Eisenberg writes: "If the purpose of the Bracket Buster event is to help more mid-major teams play their way into the NCAA tournament, then there's no denying that this year's event was a colossal failure. In addition to Old Dominion and William & Mary, Siena's at large hopes vanished after a blowout loss at Butler and Wichita State's did so as well after falling at Utah State. [...] The solution to this, of course, would be to pit mid-majors against big-name opponents in the BracketBuster event, except few if any teams from the power six conferences would have anything to gain by such a format." Ballin' Is A Habit responds: "The bottom line? No matter who you play, you must win games to make the tournament. Old Dominion, Siena, and Wichita State lost games that would have helped their tournament resume. William & Mary lost a game it should have won. If ODU and Siena had both won, and that win helped the two teams to earn an at-large bid, people would be singing a much different tune about BracketBusters. So until a situation arises in which a team winning their BracketBusters game has a negative effect on their tournament résumé, I think BracketBusters is working just fine."
  • Hokies fans are predictably giddy about their team's late-season rise into the NCAA tournament bracket; here's a roundup of Virginia Tech's newfound bracketology love.
  • Gasaway's Tuesday Truths. More on this later, but Maryland is much, much better than the RPI folks seem to think. Oh, and here's more Gasaway, this time taking on the Purdue homers who insist on claiming this team is "old-fashioned" and "hard-nosed" (which they are, sort of) while completely ignoring what's made the Boilermakers of 2010 so much better than last season's counterparts: the offense!
  • Nebraska is 1-11 in the Big 12 and 13-14 overall, but Nebraska's athletic director isn't putting coach Doc Sadler's head on the chopping block. Rather, he's extending the always-welcome-when-it-seems-sincere vote of confidence, saying Sadler is the "right guy to get this thing done."
  • Michigan State's Kalin Lucas was frustrated Saturday. After losing to Ohio State in East Lansing -- and scoring a mere nine points on 3 of 13 shooting -- Lucas decided to pull a LeBron and blow off the postgame media question-and-answer session. On Sunday, Lucas called head coach Tom Izzo to apologize and tell him he felt bad about "leaving his teammates to explain" the loss. On Monday, Lucas joined Izzo at the coach's weekly news conference, where Lucas apologized to the media for ditching out. All things considered, a pretty classy move.
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  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp has some lighthearted fun with Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, and the many faces of A.J. (Of special note is Ogilvy's hair, which reminds of the kids I used to play club soccer with -- they loved to frost their tips. Like aging 90s country chicks and their relationship to mullets, I have an irrational soft spot for this hairstyle.)
  • Speaking of lighthearted fun, let's hope this budding Kent State sideline reporter -- and heir to the "Boom Goes The Dynamite" guy's legacy of student reporter hilarity -- can laugh at himself in the morning.
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