One of the great coaching runs in college basketball history -- and the longest and winningest in Philadelphia hoops history at any level -- will officially come to an end on Henry Avenue after this season.
Herb Magee, who turned 80 in June, will call it a career after one more run through history. Thomas Jefferson University announced Tuesday that Magee will end a head-coaching run that began in 1967, included an NCAA College Division national title in 1970, and now includes 1,123 victories, second in NCAA men’s hoops only to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (1,170), who also is retiring after this season.
“It’s been in my head as a done deal for a while,” Magee said Tuesday over the phone. “I thought it was time. It’s time. Look at the number of years that I’ve been on this campus and the numbers of players I’ve coached. It’s time.”
His successor, as planned, will be longtime assistant Jimmy Reilly, the school announced.
“He will be successful,” Magee said of Reilly, who has been on his staff since 2007. “I’m not putting pressure on him, but he will be successful. The one thing he will do is substitute more than me.”
Whatever the name they called the school, whether Philadelphia Textile or Philadelphia University or now Jefferson, it’s been Herb Magee’s school, really since he showed up as a player from West Catholic in 1959, scoring 2,235 points as an undergraduate in the days before the three-point line. His junior year, Magee averaged 29.1 points a game.
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When Magee was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, it was noted that in addition to his head-coaching prowess, he has been one of his sport’s foremost shooting coaches, teaching simple techniques that grade-schoolers pick up. His own shooting feats on the summer camp circuit are legend, and Charles Barkley and Malik Rose count themselves among the NBA players who worked on their shooting with Magee, also known as The Shot Doctor.
Magee will be back up in Springfield, Mass., this weekend, helping introduce Jay Wright when Villanova’s coach is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
All this time, before his own induction and after, Magee’s teams never stopped winning. His 2019-20 team had just arrived in Connecticut for its first-round NCAA Division II game when the entire tournament was called off because of the pandemic, his Rams finishing that season with a 27-4 record.
Jefferson did not have a 2020-21 season, so Magee’s career record has remained frozen at 1,123-444. He’s hoping it ends with another trip to the NCAA Tournament, which would mark the 32nd time his Rams have qualified in Magee’s amazing tenure.
“It is wonderful for the players and for the University that Coach Magee is staying at Jefferson for another season before he heads into a well-deserved retirement,” Thomas Jefferson University president Stephen Klasko said in a statement. “Although knowing Herb the way I do, he won’t just be sitting around. We are grateful for the impact he has had on generations of students, on our entire university and on the sport of basketball. He is a much-loved friend and colleague and Jefferson and the Herb Magee Court will always be his home.”
“When the name ‘Coach Magee’ is mentioned, it is generally treated as a second name for the university,” said Jefferson athletic director Tom Shirley, the school’s women’s basketball coach, also in a statement. “If you do not know him personally, you have at least heard of him. We can never thank coach enough for all of the contributions he has made to the university over his 63 years. His retirement celebration will, of course, acknowledge his basketball expertise, but more importantly, it will salute a man who dedicated his life to the education of young people. We wish Coach Magee a great final season and a long and healthy retirement.”
Asked what he would have said in 1967 if anybody told him he’d be coaching in 2021-22, last season or not, Magee started laughing. “I’d have told them they were crazy.”