PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The hottest basketball ticket in town tonight is not for a game at the Center or the Palestra.
Instead, the Gallagher Center on the campus of Division II Philadelphia University will be the place to be as Hall of Fame head coach Herb Magee looks for career coaching win No. 1,000, leading his Rams against visiting Wilmington University.READ MORE: Holy Grounds Coffee Company Created In Effort to Bring Employment Opportunities To Those In Need
“What’s special about it is, obviously, the number,” Magee tells KYW Newsradio. “But as far as I’m concerned, it’s just another game. But it will be a little bit different when the game starts because this place will probably be packed with news media, friends, family, former assistant coaches, former players.”
Listen to Herb Magee with KYW’s Matt Leon:
Many of those people have already reached out to Magee in anticipation of win No. 1,000.
“There’s been a ton of people,” Magee says. “Guys who have played here, have coached here. Yesterday I got a call from Bill Raftery, a long time friend who everybody recognizes as one of the great basketball announcers. That was really nice. So I’m hearing from guys I haven’t really spoken to in quite awhile.”
Magee, a West Catholic High School product, will be trying to become just the second NCAA men’s basketball coach to hit the 1,000 win mark. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was the first, reaching the milestone last month.
This is Magee’s 48th season as the head coach at his alma mater Philadelphia University (formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science). His career record is 999-396. He won the 1970 Division II National Championship. He is the winningest head coach in Division II history and he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Every one of his head coaching wins has come at Philadelphia University, but he says he could have never predicted having this type of job longevity when he took over the program for his mentor Bucky Harris in 1967.READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Another Round Of Snow Expected Overnight Into Thursday Morning Commute
“Of course not,” Magee says. “No one could. I said to Jack Ramsey up at the Hall of Fame, when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame he was my presenter, and I was kidding with him, and I said, ‘If you had recruited me (when Ramsey coached at St. Joseph’s University), I might’ve coached St. Joe’s.’ He said, ‘Yeah, Herb, that’s possible, but certainly not for 45 years.’ So no one really expects to really stay in any job that long. Especially coaching because it’s such a precarious situation. But I’ve been fortunate, we’ve had good kids, good players, we’ve got a school that we can sell to prospective students. It’s a great place to go to college, not just for student-athletes, but for all students. And it’s just a wonderful place to be. So I’m really pleased that I stayed.”
So what is the biggest lesson that 48 years as a head coach have taught him?
“To take one game at a time,” Magee says. “And more important than that, to take one practice at a time. Because if you look too far ahead, you’re going to get ahead of yourself and you’re not doing justice to the job. You have to prepare. And we preach that, not only to our assistant coaches, but to our players as well.”
As far as the match-up tonight is concerned, Magee’s Rams (who are 14-5) will be facing a 7-15 Wilmington squad that they beat in their first match-up down in Delaware, 68-62, back on January 7th.
“When we played them last time down there, they didn’t have their best player, a guard named (Tyaire) Ponzo-Meek, a very, very good player,” Magee says. “They’re athletic kids. They’ll press. And if you’re a kid, you have to put yourself into this situation, you’re coming into a gym that you’ve never seen in your life that’s going to be this crowded and this hyped. And I’m sure their coach is hyping up the game, ‘Let’s not let Herb Magee get his 1,000th win against us.’ We’re going to get their best effort every night, but I think this might be as good an effort as they can show.”
Tonight’s game at the Gallagher Center is set for 7:30pm.MORE NEWS: Man Critically Injured, More Than 45 Shell Casings Found In Tacony Shooting, Police Say
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.