A favorite part of covering past Herb Magee milestones: Magee would conclude by noting to the assembled media, “See you in five years.”
Well, here we are.
It’s not quite been 60 months since Magee became the second NCAA men’s coach to win 1,000 basketball games. As a milestone, 1,100 might not have the same cleanliness as 1,000. It’s not nothing, though.
“No,’’ Magee said the other day. “It’s 100 more than a thousand.’’
Basically, this man climbed Mount Everest, then said, “What the heck. Let’s keep going, into the air.” This could be the last milestone, though, other than his very last victory. Magee, into his 53rd season in charge of this same basketball program, isn’t committing to any retirement date. He just isn’t committing to 1,200.
“Safe to say, the end is closer than the beginning,’’ Magee said.
I was in the building for his 500th, up on Long Island, and also there for his second 500th. This man graduated from West Catholic in 1959, moved over to Henry Avenue to make his jump shots, then stayed on as the name out front kept changing, from Philadelphia Textile Institute to Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science to Philadelphia University to Jefferson University.
Tuesday at 7 p.m., Division II Jefferson will host Kutztown, with 1,100 on the line. Magee got to 1,099 Saturday when Jefferson won at Queens, 93-84. (I started to type Textile before realizing I meant Jefferson. Some habits die hard.)
Magee, 78, is hitting a number that has been hit by Mike Krzyzewski and nobody else in the history of NCAA basketball.
“Any time we win a game, I take pride,’’ said Magee, who happens to be a preeminent shooting coach separate from his day job. “I remember the first game I won, the 500th, all of them. It’s more to me how we’re doing this season than creating a milestone.”
Magee isn’t doing it with small strides, limping past milestones with 12- and 13-win seasons. His Rams are picked to be on top of the Central Atlantic College Conference’s South Division this season. They won 111 games over the last five seasons.
A pet peeve: I hate that the building in which Magee coaches isn’t named for him. Yes, the court has his name, and those banners in the rafters tell the story, like Magee’s induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Did the school’s board of trustees have to name this building for the president at the time? Yes, that president was beyond consequential. Naming the whole campus the James P. Gallagher campus might have been richly deserved. But shouldn’t this one building celebrate the very thing the school might be best known for?
Rant over. Magee was all right talking about 1,100 before hitting it because this one is inevitable -- just like he tells players approaching 1,000 career points, “It’s going to happen; the important thing is to win the game.”
“What we’re trying to do is get to the promised land every year,’’ Magee said.
“NCAA Tournament, and then to advance,’’ Magee said. “The ultimate goal that all teams should have.”
With four senior starters, led by forward and All-American candidate DeVaughn Mallory, Magee has earned his optimism.
“I try to impress on them: This is your career,’’ Magee said of searching for the intensity he wants to see. “They’re not waiting for you at the NBA draft. A couple of you may play overseas, but this is your career.”
The list of assistants who have rolled through is nothing short of mind-boggling and includes two current Big 5 head coaches: Billy Lange at St. Joseph’s and Steve Donahue at Penn. Current top assistant Jimmy Reilly has been with Magee for 13 seasons, which means he’s been around for more than 265 wins himself.
“He does literally everything,’’ Magee said. “We make a tremendous team, the two of us.”
We’re not rushing Magee into retirement. He’s still clearly doing his thing like he always has.
“I do the same thing every year,’’ Magee said of any retirement decision. “My wife and I sit down and bounce it off each other.”